Washington, D.C. - Congressman Steve Chabot (R-Westwood) on Thursday introduced bipartisan legislation to eliminate a glitch in the teacher loan forgiveness program that unfairly impacts the spouses of men and women who serve in the military. Joining Chabot as original cosponsors of the legislation, H.R. 2919, the Preserve Teacher Loan Forgiveness for Military Spouses Act, are Elise Stefanik (R-NY), John Garamendi (R-CA), Terri Sewell (D-AL), Mark Takano (D-CA), Eric Swalwell (D-CA), and Seth Moulton (D-MA).
“Forgiving the student loan debt of teachers is intended to be an incentive for recent college graduates to give back to society,” said Chabot. “Teachers who are married to military service members, and their families, are making a significant sacrifice and contribution to our country, and they are exactly the type of people who should benefit from this program. Too often, however, military spouses wind up ineligible for the program due to a transfer of their spouse beyond their control. This legislation will put an end to this inequity.”
Under current law, in order to be eligible for the teacher loan forgiveness program, an individual must teach for five complete and consecutive years at a qualifying Title I school. However, teachers who are married to military service members are often forced to leave such a position when the government transfers their spouse to another base or post. Following this relocation which often happens in the middle of a school year, it can take some time for the teacher to find a new job at a qualifying school. This can create a lapse in employment and make it difficult for relocated military spouses to participate in the student loan forgiveness program.
This problem was brought to Chabot’s attention by Lindsay Willmann, a teacher originally from Lebanon, who was confronted with this exact scenario.
Ms. Willmann, whose husband is employed by the U.S. Navy, describes her situation as follows:
“After graduating college, [my husband and I] moved to Charleston, South Carolina to begin our careers in education and the Navy. I was in the middle of my second year at Berkeley County School District when we were given orders to Norfolk, Virginia. In February, I left my teaching position and moved to Norfolk with my husband. I obtained a Virginia teaching license and began applying to school districts. I was hired in July of the same year, but had already experienced my first gap in employment. After teaching for two years in Chesapeake, Virginia, we received orders to report to a shore tour in Washington D.C. We moved in October, which led to a second gap in employment. I am now beginning my fourth year as a teacher in a high need field, but will be ineligible for federal loan forgiveness when I complete my fifth. If my husband and I had not been forced to move due to military obligations, I could have met the requirement for five complete and consecutive years of service. Unfortunately, these repeated relocations have made it impossible for me to qualify under the current teacher loan forgiveness program.”
H.R. 2919 would address this problem by providing military spouses who participate in the teacher loan forgiveness program a waiver that would allow them to remain eligible if the government relocates their family. The waiver would only apply if the spouse resumes teaching at a qualifying Title I school within one year of the relocation.
“We should not punish teachers who oftentimes have no control over their spouse’s relocation or reassignment by the military,” Chabot added. “Instead, they should be encouraged to continue to serve our communities by remaining eligible for the same benefits once they relocate, as long as they continue to meet the five-year teaching requirement.”
The legislation would also address the lack of transparency of the program by requiring a report to Congress every two years about the program, including its number of participants.