Workforce Development (H.494) - April 18, 2023

Legislative Counsel reviewed H.494 for the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday. The bill had already passed the house and the much of the discussion was focused on the forgivable loan incentive programs (subsection 6)

This section was largely based on the nursing forgivable loan program that passed last year.

(4) ‘forgivable loan” means a loan awarded under this section covering tuition, which may also include room, board, and the cost of required books and supplied for all full-time attendance in an undergraduate or graduate program at n eligible school 

(b) the Vermont teacher forgivable loan incentive program is created and shall be administered by the corporation (VSAC).  The program provides forgivable loans to students enrolled in an eligible school who commit to working as a teacher in a Vermont public school and who meet the eligibility requirements in subsection (d) of this section. The intent of the program is to encourage students to enter into teaching professions, with an emphasis on encouraging black, indigenous, and persons of color Vermonters, new Americans, and other historically underrepresented communities in an effort to diversify the educator workforce.

(d) to be eligible for a forgivable loan under the program, an individual whether a resident or nonresident of Vermont, shall satisfy all of the following requirement:

            (1) be enrolled in teaching program at an eligible school;

            (2) maintain good standing at the eligible school at which the individual is enrolled;

            (3) agree to work as a teacher in Vermont employed directly by a public school located in Vermont for a minimum of one year following licensure for each year of forgivable loan awarded;

            (4) have executed a credit agreement or promissory note that will reduce the individual’s forgivable loan benefit, in whole or in part pursuant to subsection (f) of this section, if the individual fails to complete the period of service required in this subsection;

            (5) have completed the program’s application form the free application for federal student aid and for Vermont residents, the Vermont grant application each academic year of enrollment in accordance with a schedule determined by the corporation; and

            (6) have provided such other documentation as the corporation may require. 

(e) if an eligible individual fails to serve as a teacher in a Vermont public school for a period hat would entitle the individual to the full forgivable loan benefit received by the individual other than for good cause as determined by the corporation, then the individual shall receive only partial loan forgiveness for a pro rata portion of the loan pursuant to the terms of the interest free credit agreement or promissory note signed by the individual at the time of entering the program.

(f) there shall be no deadline to apply for a forgivable loan under this section, forgivable loans shall be awarded on a rolling basis as long as funds are available, and any funds remaining at the end of a fiscal year shall roll over and shall be available to the corporation in the following fiscal year to award additional forgivable loans as set forth in this section. 

A second program for flexible pathways was also included to encourage and support the development and retention of qualified and effective Vermont educators. The program established as an emerging pathways grant program and be administered by the Agency of Education (AOE). The program would functionally provide grants to expand support, mentoring, and professional development to prospective educators seeking licensure through AOE’s emerging pathways (including peer review and apprentice pathways).

The Agency would issue grants to organizations, school districts, or a group of school districts for the development and administration of programs and program coordinators designed to provide prospective educators in emerging pathways to teaching with the support necessary for successful entry into the educator workforce. The bill also specifies that recruitment, support, and retention of prospective educator candidates should focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Support provided through the program may include:

  • Support through the praxis exam process
  • Local, educator-led seminars designed around the Vermont licensure portfolio themes
  • Local educator mentors
  • Support in completing the peer review portfolio and licensing process
  • Continued professional development support within the first year of licensure

For fiscal year 2024, the bill appropriates these one-time expenditures:

  • $500K from the General Fund to AOE for the purpose of funding the Emerging Pathways grant program.
  • $2.5M from the General Fund to the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC) for the Vermont Teacher Forgivable Loan Incentive Program.
  • $300K from the General Fund to AOE for the purpose of funding the Historically Underrepresented Educator Affinity Groups grant program.

Chairman Campion noted that has "been asked" to give the Economic Development Committee their impression of the bill. Most of the members were supportive except they did have a discussion of the term ‘teacher’ and whether they might want to expand scope of loan program to counsellors, and others school personnel who service the students in another capacity other than ‘teacher’. Campion shared that he was able to find some additional funds for appropriations which they may want to use to expand scope of loan, but "more discussion needs to happen." The Committee also asked to hear testimony on how successful the nursing programs was based on the language used in the bill.

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