Tester introduces bill to recruit and retain teachers in Indian Country

The NEST Act establishes scholarships, loan-forgiveness plans, and development courses to eliminate teacher shortage

(U.S. Senate) – Senator Jon Tester, a former teacher and Vice Chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, today is introducing a bill that will help recruit and retain more teachers in Indian Country to eliminate the teacher shortage that is widening the achievement gap for Native American students.

Tester’s bill, The Native Education Support and Training (NEST) Act, establishes new scholarships, federal student loan forgiveness plans, and teacher development courses for prospective and existing educators who commit to teaching at a Native American or Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) school.

“A quality education is key to improving local economies, creating good paying jobs and lifting folks out of poverty and this all begins with strong educators,” Tester said. “For too long students in Indian Country haven’t had the consistency in the classroom that they need to succeed. My bill will help recruit and retain quality teachers who are committed to Native students, culture and heritage.”

The NEST Act:
• Establishes three scholarships for Native American students seeking a bachelor or graduate degree in education or school administration.
• Creates student loan forgiveness plans that will forgive federal student loans for teachers who commit at least five years to a Native American or BIE school.
• Extends the Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation Program to teachers who instruct Native language immersion classes.

The Facts:
• The number of unfilled full-time teaching positions at BIE schools has doubled over the past ten years. [LINK]
• Last school year one out of every eleven BIE classrooms lacked a permanent teacher. [LINK]
• 8.7 percent of American Indian and Alaska Natives currently hold a bachelor’s degree, a basic requirement to becoming a teacher in most states. [LINK]
• The achievement gap between Native and non-Native students continues to expand. For American Indian and Alaska Native elementary school children, the gap has grown to 19 percent in reading and 16 percent in math. [LINK]

Last month Tester introduced legislation to increase after school opportunities for Native American students and he is sponsoring a bill to increase Native language classes across Indian Country.

Tester’s NEST Act is available HERE and is cosponsored by Senator Al Franken (D – Minn.) and Senator Martin Heinrich (D – N.M.).