Sinema Bill Protects Teachers from Surprise Loan Charges

May 13, 2019

Senator’s bipartisan bill fixes a problem with TEACH grants that wrongfully converted grants to loans

WASHINGTON – Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema introduced bipartisan legislation with Republican Senator Mike Braun (Ind.) that protects teachers from costly surprise changes in grant payment requirements. The Senators’ legislation fixes an issue with TEACH grants that mistakenly converted grants awarded to teachers who serve low-income schools into loans which require repayment. The Consider Teachers Act would revert all such loans back to grants and discharge any accumulated interest or fees.

The Arizona Education Association endorsed the bill.

“Arizona teachers use TEACH grants to serve Arizona families in low-income schools. The government made a promise to those teachers, and our commonsense bill ensures the government honors its obligation,” said Sinema. 

The TEACH grant program began in 2008 as a way to recruit teachers to teach high-need subjects in low-income, Title I schools. The grant program helps cover education costs for teachers in exchange for commitments that they teach in low-income schools for four years. If they do not make good on that commitment, the grants convert to loans. However, in 2014, a Department of Education review found over 10,000 recipients had their grants converted to loans as a result of errors made by the company hired to manage the program. One student, Anna of Glendale, Arizona, taught a high-need subject in a Title I school in Phoenix for five years. Her grant was erroneously converted to a loan through no fault of her own.

Since the TEACH grant program was created, the Department of Education reports that there have been 35,593 TEACH grant awards made—totaling $107,740,051—to students in Arizona.