Thursday December 9th, 2021 12:04AM

Panel proposes $3,000 credit for hard-to-fill teaching posts

By The Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) — Some Georgia teachers who agree to work in certain rural or low performing schools could get an extra $3,000 a year for five years under a bill advancing in the state House.

The House Education Committee on Thursday approved House Bill 32, which would create a tax credit for up to 1,000 teachers who agree to begin work in targeted districts. If teachers didn't incur $3,000 in state income tax liability, the state would send a check for the remaining amount after teachers file their income tax returns.

The measure moves on to the full House, where a similar bill easily passed last year.

“This is a pilot program,” said sponsor Dave Belton, a Buckhead Republican. “I hope later on we can expand it because it's so successful.”

The state Department of Education would designate a group of 100 schools statewide where full-time teachers would qualify for the incentive, choosing from schools that are rural or from those that score in the lowest 5% in the state's school rating system. The program would begin next fall.

Teachers who agree to start work at those schools would get the money, whether they are newly graduated from college or had taught somewhere else previously. However, teachers who already work at the targeted schools would not get the money.

“This is a program that is laser-focused to try to address the need,” Belton said, noting that there were more than 3,000 unfilled teaching positions statewide.

Georgia has tried and abandoned other strategies to encourage teachers to take hard-to-fill positions. Rep Tommy Benton, a Jefferson Republican, asked why Belton was not instead offering to forgive student loan debt for teachers who commit to such schools, suggesting that might have a more persuasive effect, but Belton said legislative leaders are instead backing the tax credit.

A number of other states offer extra pay or loan repayment programs.

Georgia isn’t experiencing as severe a teacher shortage as some other states, boosted by a growing population and salaries that are high for the region. But Southern Regional Education Board President Stephen Pruitt has said it’s still a problem in the state, particularly with declining enrollments in colleges of education.

Gov. Brian Kemp is supporting a different set of proposals intended to increase the supply of teachers, including a plan that could allow retired teachers to return to work and collect both a full salary and a full pension. The return-to-work plan would not become law before 2022 at the earliest, and a similar program only had about 500 participants when it was abolished. Other parts of Kemp's plan, like encouraging more military service members to become teachers, passed the Senate Education and Youth Committee on Wednesday.


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