Sen. Franken Helps Introduce Legislation to Reduce Teacher Shortages, Strengthen Education for Minnesota’s Rural and Native American Students

Sen. Al Franken

Two Bills Would Help Increase Teacher Recruitment for Rural Communities and Address Workforce Shortages at Schools in Indian Country and Rural Communities Across Minnesota  

Published March 1, 2017 

WASHINGTON – On Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) helped introduce legislation that would reduce teacher shortages in rural Minnesota and in Indian Country, improving education for rural and Native American students across Minnesota.

“Every kid should have access to a world-class education, no matter where they live,” said Sen. Franken. “But educators and students in rural Minnesota and in Indian Country often face unique challenges that schools in metro areas don’t. One of the major challenges I often hear about is that frankly there aren’t enough teachers in those communities. These two bills would help address that, and I’m going to be working to pass them into law so that we can get more teachers to work in these communities to ensure kids receive the education they deserve.”

The first bill Sen. Franken, a member of the Senate Education Committee, helped introduce with Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), called the Rural Educator Support and Training (REST) Act,would address teacher workforce shortages in rural America by providing scholarships, loan forgiveness, and professional development opportunities to educators who commit to work in rural schools. The bill would provide scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students pursuing degrees in education or school administration who contract with rural schools for at least three years to cover tuition, fees, books, and a living stipend.

Sen. Franken, who is a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, also helped introduce the Native Educator Support and Training (NEST) Act to help recruit and retain teachers in Indian Country by providing new scholarships, federal student loan forgiveness, and teacher development courses to prospective and existing educators who are either Native American or who commit to teaching at schools that serve a high population of Native students, including local public schools and Bureau of Indian Education schools. The NEST Act would establish multiple incentive, scholarship, and loan forgiveness programs for Native American educators and educators who work in schools serving a high percentage of Native American students.

Sen. Franken fought to get rural schools more of the resources they need in the recent overhaul of the “No Child Left Behind” law, which he helped write. And last year, Sen. Franken launched a “Rural Education Tour” across Minnesota to hear from rural educators and community leaders about the unique problems they face, and to develop ways to bring high-quality education to students in rural areas.

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