April 24, 2000
NORTHSHORE--U.S. Congressman Jay Inslee is proposing a "Teachers for Tomorrow" bill, offering forgiveness of loans for young people who want to become teachers.
To support that effort, Inslee had the House Committee on Government Reform study sizes of all K-3 classes in the Northshore, Bellevue, Lake Washington, and Everett school districts. He announced the study results on a tour of schools in the 1st District on Monday, April 17.
"Ninety-six percent of Northshore's K-3 classes had more than 18 students, and 21 percent had more than 25 students," said Inslee. "We want to reduce that to 18 per class, because research has shown that children in K-3 classes of that size achieve much better career results. Smaller classes enable more disciplined learning, because teachers can give more attention to each student."
The major challenge to achieving that goal is the huge drop in teachers school districts are facing, with many baby-boomer teachers on the verge of retirement, he said.
"In the next 10 years we will need 2.2 million teacher hires in Washington, just to keep pace with current class sizes," said Inslee. "The loan forgiveness program will be for people who get teaching degrees and remain in teaching for five years. We have to offer some incentives for students coming out of college, to convince them not to go to Microsoft to pay off their loans. It is a proactive bill, not retroactive."
Inslee said he talked to teachers during his tour who still haven't been able to pay off school loans of $40,000. He said school districts are losing 10-20 percent of their teachers who are leaving because of their loan burdens.
Inslee was asked three times why the bill couldn't be written to include those same teachers who can't pay past loans--if the concern is to keep them--since they were already trained and apparently dedicated to teaching. "We have to take it one step at a time," he said.
Northshore schools have also lost half of their substitute teacher pool in recent years, compounding the problem, said Inslee.