HB 256: "An Act establishing a workforce enhancement program for teachers employed in the state."

00 HOUSE BILL NO. 256 01 "An Act establishing a workforce enhancement program for teachers employed in the 02 state." 03 BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF ALASKA: 04 * Section 1. AS 14.43 is amended by adding new sections to read: 05 Article 9A. Teacher Workforce Enhancement Program. 06 Sec. 14.43.530. Program established. (a) The teacher workforce enhancement 07 program is established in the department for the purpose of addressing the growing 08 shortage of teachers in the state by increasing the number and retention of teachers at 09 eligible site schools in the state with high teacher turnover rates and in schools in rural 10 areas of the state. 11 (b) The program established under this section must include 12 (1) employer payments, as described in AS 14.43.535; 13 (2) direct incentives, as described in AS 14.43.545; 14 (3) student loan repayments, as described in AS 14.43.550;

01 (4) procedures for the board's designation and prioritization of high 02 needs eligible sites and high needs positions; 03 (5) an application process for participation in the program as 04 (A) an eligible site; or 05 (B) an eligible teacher; 06 (6) provision of public information and notices relating to the program; 07 (7) a five-year lifetime maximum for a teacher to be eligible to 08 participate in the program. 09 (c) Each school district that participates in the program established under this 10 section shall, on or before July 1 of each year, prepare and submit to the board a report 11 that describes the turnover rate of teachers in the participating school district for the 12 previous calendar year. 13 (d) The department may 14 (1) contract for payments under the program and for the services of a 15 consultant, expert, financial advisor, or other person the department considers 16 necessary for the exercise of its powers and functions and to perform its duties under 17 AS 14.43.530 - 14.43.560; 18 (2) adopt regulations necessary to implement the program. 19 Sec. 14.43.535. Employer payments. A school district approved for 20 participation in the program as an employer shall make a nonrefundable quarterly 21 payment to the department for the benefit of the employer's eligible teacher. The 22 employer payment may come from any available source, including a philanthropic 23 institution, education foundation, government agency, community organization, or 24 private individual. The payment amount 25 (1) must be equal to the eligible teacher's program payment amount 26 established by the board; 27 (2) may be adjusted based on the employer's ability to pay, as 28 determined by the board; and 29 (3) may include a fee established by the department for services 30 provided under the program. 31 Sec. 14.43.540. Initial and renewal payments. (a) The department may

01 approve student loan repayment and direct incentive payments for qualified 02 employment for an initial period of three years and may approve one renewal period 03 of two years if the applicant 04 (1) submits an application on a form approved by the department for 05 (A) student loan repayments and, for student loan repayment 06 renewal, demonstrates that the applicant has 07 (i) a continuing student loan obligation on the same 08 student loan that was subject to repayment under the program during 09 the initial three-year period; or 10 (ii) incurred additional student loan debt that qualifies 11 for repayment; 12 (B) direct incentive payments; or 13 (C) payments under both (A) and (B) of this paragraph; 14 (2) is otherwise eligible for participation in the program; and 15 (3) does not exceed the five-year lifetime maximum eligibility for 16 participation in the program. 17 (b) The department shall combine an eligible teacher's direct incentives and 18 pay the total amount to the eligible teacher in one quarterly cash payment. The 19 department shall combine an eligible teacher's student loan repayments and pay the 20 total amount to the lending institution in one quarterly payment. 21 (c) Except as provided in (d) of this section, the combined total amount of an 22 eligible teacher's direct incentives and student loan repayments may not exceed, 23 (1) for an eligible teacher employed at an eligible site that is not a high 24 needs eligible site in a position that is not a high needs position, $2,500 annually; 25 (2) for an eligible teacher employed at an eligible site that is not a high 26 needs eligible site in a high needs position, $5,000 annually; 27 (3) for an eligible teacher employed at a high needs eligible site in a 28 position that is not a high needs position, $7,500 annually; 29 (4) for an eligible teacher employed at a high needs eligible site in a 30 high needs position, $10,000 annually. 31 (d) The department may annually increase the annual maximum program

01 payment amounts in (c) of this section by the average percentage increase in the 02 Consumer Price Index for urban wage earners and clerical workers for Urban Alaska 03 during the previous five calendar years, as determined by the United States 04 Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. 05 (e) The department shall prorate student loan repayments and direct incentive 06 payments based on the number of qualified employment hours the eligible teacher 07 worked in a calendar quarter. The department may not pay a student loan repayment or 08 direct incentive before the completion of a calendar quarter in which the incentive 09 payment was earned. 10 (f) The department shall deposit employer payments received under 11 AS 14.43.535 in a separate account in the general fund. 12 (g) The department shall pay student loan repayments and direct incentives 13 with funds appropriated by the legislature for that purpose. The department may limit 14 the number of program participants based on available funding. If insufficient money 15 is appropriated to fully fund the program in a fiscal year, the department shall prorate 16 payments based on the number of approved participants in the program. 17 Sec. 14.43.545. Direct incentives. The department shall provide a direct 18 incentive in the form of a quarterly cash payment to an eligible teacher engaged in 19 qualified employment in an amount established by the board and that is provided by 20 an employer approved under the program. 21 Sec. 14.43.550. Student loan repayment. (a) The department shall repay a 22 portion of eligible student loans held by or made to an eligible teacher. 23 (b) A student loan is eligible for repayment if the student loan 24 (1) was issued to an individual eligible for a direct incentive payment 25 under AS 14.43.555; 26 (2) is a student loan as described in 26 U.S.C. 108(f)(2); 27 (3) was used by the individual for a program for which the individual 28 received a certificate, license, or degree. 29 (c) A student loan repayment under this section may not exceed 33.3 percent 30 of the unpaid student loan balance existing in the first year of the individual's 31 participation in the program multiplied by the percentage of full-time equivalent

01 employment for each year of qualified employment, not to exceed three years. 02 (d) A student loan or interest on a student loan is not eligible for repayment 03 under this section if the student loan or interest is 04 (1) to be repaid by another source, including another loan repayment or 05 forgiveness program or any employer-sponsored loan repayment program; 06 (2) consolidated with a loan that is not eligible for repayment; or 07 (3) refinanced as a loan that is not eligible for repayment. 08 Sec. 14.43.555. Eligible teacher. (a) To be eligible for a direct incentive 09 payment, an individual must 10 (1) submit an application that is approved by the board; 11 (2) be engaged in qualified employment at an eligible site with a 12 participating employer; 13 (3) for the first year of eligibility, be a new hire to the school district in 14 which the individual is engaged to work; 15 (4) be a participant of a retirement program under AS 14.25.310 - 16 14.25.590; 17 (5) hold a teaching certificate issued under AS 14.20; and 18 (6) satisfy other criteria established by the board. 19 (b) To be eligible for student loan repayment, an individual must 20 (1) satisfy the requirements of (a) of this section; and 21 (2) have an unpaid balance of at least $2,500 on one or more eligible 22 student loans verified by the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education or the 23 department. 24 Sec. 14.43.560. Definitions. In AS 14.43.530 - 14.43.560, 25 (1) "eligible site" means a public school in the state that is designated 26 as a Title I school under federal law and is in 27 (A) a school district with demonstrated turnover of 25 percent 28 or greater for the previous school year; or 29 (B) a rural area; 30 (2) "employer payment" means the payment an employer makes to the 31 department for participation in the program;

01 (3) "high needs eligible site" means an eligible site with demonstrated 02 turnover of 33 percent or greater for the previous school year; 03 (4) "high needs position" means a position at an eligible site with a 04 vacancy rate of 10 percent or greater throughout a school district; 05 (5) "program" means the teacher workforce enhancement program; 06 (6) "qualified employment" means a high needs position, a position at 07 a high needs eligible site, a special education position, or a literacy specialist position; 08 (7) "rural" means a community with a population of 5,500 or less that 09 is not connected by road or rail to Anchorage or Fairbanks or with a population of 10 1,500 or less that is connected by road or rail to Anchorage or Fairbanks; 11 (8) "school district" has the meaning given in AS 14.30.350.