Finkenauer Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Keep Teachers in the Classroom

September 18, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer (D-IA-01), Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (D-FL-24), Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-1), and Congressman David B. McKinley P.E. (R-WV-1) announced introduction of the RETAIN Teachers Act, or the Reducing Extra Teaching Authentication Impacting New Teachers Act. The bill would help attract teachers and keep them in the classroom by streamlining burdensome paperwork requirements for programs designed to help teachers finance their education and repay student loans.

TEACH Grants, Teacher Loan Forgiveness, Perkins Loan Cancellation for Teachers, and Public Service Loan Forgiveness help teachers afford the cost of college. After they graduate, new teachers must certify completion of service requirements to benefit from these programs. Unfortunately, these programs all have different paperwork, increasing burden for our educators.

The RETAIN Teachers Act will require the Department of Education to study and recommend how to create a single electronic certification form for all these programs to streamline the process for teachers and let them focus on serving our students.

“From building lesson plans to grading papers, our hardworking teachers are already buried under piles of paper,” Congresswoman Finkenauer said. “Government should not add to the pile – it should be easing the burden. I’m proud to partner with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to reduce the extra authentication and let our teachers get back to teaching.”

“Time and energy spent filling out burdensome paperwork is time and energy not spent on the reasons people become teachers in the first place, which is to nurture children, cultivate a passion for learning, and help students realize their full potential,” said Congresswoman Wilson. “This bipartisan legislation will not only help retain teachers, but also will attract gifted educators to the field, and I am happy to be an original co-sponsor.”

“Teaching is one of the most noble and selfless professions, and educators are worthy of our support for the guidance they provide our country’s kids on a daily basis,” said Fitzpatrick. “Outdated modes of service requirement certification do them a disservice, and I am proud to support this bipartisan legislation to ensure teachers can spend more of their time doing what they love while not being bogged down by bureaucratic paperwork.” 

“Teachers play a major role in shaping the lives of their students and building the next generation. They spend hours making sure that students are engaged in their lessons,” McKinley said. “That is why it is critical we help save them time, and remove burdensome barriers that can prevent them from being able to focus on doing their jobs: educating our children.”

The RETAIN Teachers Act is endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers, Iowa State Education Association, National Education Association, Rural School Advocates of Iowa, and Urban Education Network of Iowa.

Support for the RETAIN Teachers Act:

Superintendent Duane Willhite, North Fayette Valley, is on the Rural School Advocates of Iowa Leadership Group, which represents over 100 rural Iowa school districts. Superintendent Willhite said educator shortages are impacting rural Iowa. "It's very challenging to fill vacant positions or replace our retiring teachers, not just in the science and math areas, but across all areas, even in elementary. Our new teachers have a hefty workload and typically, lower pay, so anything which saves them time and makes it easier for them to access federal loan forgiveness programs will help."

Dr. Paul Gausman, Superintendent of Sioux City Schools, is chair of the Urban Education Network, representing 17 urban Iowa school districts, including Dubuque, Waterloo, Cedar Rapids, Linn-Mar, and College Community school districts in Congressional District 1.  "Our urban districts are continuing recruitment and grow-your-own programs in order to have teachers representative of our students, but many of our urban schools still struggle to fill educator positions," Dr. Gausman explained.  "This effort to streamline federal loan forgiveness program certification is welcome relief for our newest teachers, many of them carrying large amounts of college loan debt. We appreciate Congresswoman Finkenauer's efforts to support our new teachers with the introduction of H.R. 4342."

"Educators are under unprecedented stress, often working multiple jobs to make ends meet; trying to serve as social workers, mentors and teachers for their students; and struggling to pay back their own student loans,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “This legislation takes a critical step toward making the process easier for teachers to access grants, loan forgiveness and other lifelines that can reduce their debt burden and allow them to focus on the one job they want to do: educating our kids. Thanks to Reps. Abby Finkenauer (D-Iowa), Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), and David McKinley (R-W.Va.) for taking on this issue.”

“Without a doubt, programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness, Teacher Loan Forgiveness, and Teacher Loan Cancellation attract students to enter the education profession.  Unfortunately, thousands of educators are unable to have their loans forgiven due to varying and convoluted certification requirements between different programs,” said Marc Egan, Director of Government Relations, National Education Association. “NEA is proud to support Rep. Finkenauer in aligning certification requirements between all programs, so teachers receive the loan forgiveness they deserve.”