Texas public schools continue to add 80,000 to 85,000 pupils per year, a pace five times faster than enrollment growth nationwide. While teacher shortages are a national phenomenon, the booming student population in Texas makes the problem here even more acute. The challenge of recruiting and retaining sufficient numbers of properly qualified teachers also has been heightened by the state’s recent history of budget cuts, layoffs, erosion of employee rights and benefits, and inadequate measures to undo the damage. Much repair work will be required from state policy-makers to draw qualified individuals into educator-preparation programs in greater numbers and to keep qualified teachers in the classroom.
In the meanwhile, one of the state’s modest stopgaps is an effort to offer loan forgiveness to teachers in shortage areas. The latest guidance from the Texas Education Agency outlining the areas identified and providing eligibility information came out on July 6. The TEA announcement states:
SUBJECT: 2016-2017 Teacher Shortage Areas and Loan Forgiveness Programs
The United States Department of Education (USDE) has approved the 2016-2017 teacher shortage areas submitted by the Texas Education Agency (TEA).
The approved shortage areas for the 2016-2017 school year are:
1. Bilingual/English as a Second Language – Elementary and Secondary Levels
2. Career and Technical Education
3. Computer Science/Technology Applications
6. Special Education – Elementary and Secondary Levels
The approved shortage areas give administrators the ability to recruit and retain qualified teachers and to help reward teachers for their hard work using the loan forgiveness opportunities. School principals can certify that a teacher has met the minimum qualifications required for certain loan forgiveness programs.
The federal, state, and public service loan forgiveness programs are available to teachers. All school personnel can take advantage of the public service program.
More information about eligibility for each of the programs and application forms can be found on the TEA website.