Rhode Island’s Supporting Providers of English Language Learning (SPELL) Act aims to address the English learner (EL) teacher shortage by making highly-qualified EL teachers eligible for up to $17,500 in student loan forgiveness.
ELs represent almost 10% of students in Rhode Island and approximately a quarter of students in Providence, and the Department of Education reports that Rhode Island is one of 32 states that have a shortage of teachers appropriately qualified to educate ELs.
“This bill would definitely help address the teacher shortages experienced by school districts in Rhode Island and across the country by providing loan forgiveness to individuals who enroll in programs to become certified to teach English Learners,” explained Nancy Cloud, a member of the Rhode Island Teachers of English Language Learners (RITELL) Coordinating Council.
“Providing financial support for bilingual/dual language teachers will help our nation address this critical need area and give students the opportunity to become valued, engaged, multilingual citizens,”added Amy Hubertus, president of the Rhode Island Foreign Language Association (RIFLA).
Currently, if a highly-qualified teacher has been employed for five consecutive years in a high-need school, they are eligible for up to $5,000 of student loan forgiveness. Historically, math, science, and special education teachers have been in high demand, so, to achieve higher recruitment and retention rates, teachers who go into these subjects are eligible for an increased benefit of $17,500 of student loan forgiveness. To combat the growing EL teacher shortage, the SPELL Act adds EL teachers to this high demand category, making them eligible for additional debt relief.