Committee

Education

Author

Dennis DeBar

Session

2024 Session

Passed House; awaiting concurrence by Senate

Latest Action


On April 10, the House amended and passed SB 2682. The bill now awaits concurrence from the Senate. 

As amended, the bill contains a reverse repealer, meaning that the Senate will likely invite conference.

Explanation of the Bill


As amended, SB 2682 would extend the repealer on the Winter-Reed Teacher Loan Repayment Program and the Mississippi Critical Teacher Shortage Act of 1998. Both programs are currently set to expire on July 1, 2024.

SB 2682 was also amended at one point to expand the Winter-Reed Teacher Loan Repayment Program to include teachers regardless of years of experience or pathway into the profession, and to delete the cap on annual awards for the program. However, the latest version of SB 2682 no longer includes this expansion language.

SB 2682 contains a reverse repealer, meaning that it must be amended again before it becomes law.

Expansion of the Winter-Reed Teacher Loan Repayment Program

Winter-Reed was created in 2021 to attract and retain Mississippi teachers in districts across the state by offering loan repayment assistance in return for years of service, particularly in geographic critical shortage areas. Eligible teachers can receive up to $7,500 over three years if they teach in a non-critical shortage district or up to $15,000 over three years if they teach in a critical shortage district. Currently, eligibility for an initial award is limited to first-year teachers who earned a license via the traditional route (i.e., they studied education at the undergraduate level). Teachers must receive an initial award during their first year of teaching to be eligible for the additional two years of loan repayment assistance. The Office of Student Financial Aid (SFA), which administers the program, may only grant up to 150 first-year awards each year on a first-come, first-served basis—even when there are available funds for additional awards, as has been the case for the first three years of the program.

As amended by the Senate, SB 2682 would have opened eligibility to teachers regardless of years of experience, meaning that initial applicants would not have to be in their first year of teaching. Recipients would still be limited to three years of loan repayment assistance. Teachers who earned a license via the alternate route (i.e., teachers who earned their credentials after earning an undergraduate degree) would also be eligible under this expansion. Furthermore, the expansion language would have allowed SFA to utilize all funds appropriated for the Winter-Reed program to grant awards to as many eligible applicants as these funds allow. However, the current version of SB 2682 no longer includes this expansion language.

These changes would increase the number of teachers receiving loan repayment assistance at a time when crushing student loan debt has become the reality for roughly half of Mississippi teachers. A survey of 6,496 teachers by Mississippi First found that teachers with student loan debt reported being much more likely to leave the classroom (58.0%) than teachers without student debt (48.8%). This increase in attrition risk for teachers with student loan debt is likely explained by an inability to pay off student debt balances that often surpass annual salaries for Mississippi teachers (for example, 23.5% of all teachers reported a student loan balance of at least $50,000, roughly in line with the average teacher salary in Mississippi). Offering student loan repayment assistance through a program like Winter-Reed creates a viable path to paying off this debt while incentivizing service in districts where teachers are most needed. Expanding Winter-Reed would serve to heighten its impact.

Reenactment of the Mississippi Critical Teacher Shortage Act of 1998

As introduced, SB 2682 would reenact the Mississippi Critical Teacher Shortage Act of 1998, and it would extend the date of the Act’s repeal from July 1, 2024 to July 1, 2027. 

Provisions of the Mississippi Critical Teacher Shortage Act are outlined below. 

Moving Expense Reimbursement for New Hires

The Act directs the State Board of Education to create rules that allow certain teachers to be reimbursed for moving expenses, subject to appropriation. Teachers who accept positions in critical shortage areas that require them to relocate could be reimbursed for their moving expenses, up to $1,000. To be eligible for the reimbursement, the teacher must apply through the school district, and the school district must gain approval from the State Board of Education prior to the relocation. 

Mileage Reimbursement for Interviewees

The Act allows school boards of districts in critical shortage areas to reimburse teachers who interview within the district for mileage and other expenses that they may incur while attending the job interview. 

University Assisted Teacher Recruitment and Retention Grant Program

The Act established the University Assisted Teacher Recruitment and Retention Grant Program within the State Department of Education. This program is intended to provide scholarships to teachers in critical shortage areas who are working towards a Master of Education degree of Education Specialist degree. 

Mississippi Employer-Assisted Housing Teacher Program

The Act established the Mississippi Employer-Assisted Housing Teacher Program, a home loan program available to teachers in critical shortage areas. Recipients of loans under this program would be required to purchase a home within the area of the school district where they teach. Loans are capped at $6,000. One-third of each loan is converted to an interest-free grant for each year that a teacher remains in the district. 

Rental Housing Pilot Program 

The Act established a pilot program to construct rental housing units for teachers in the West Tallahatchie School District. 

Mississippi Critical Teacher Shortage Fund

The Act established the Mississippi Critical Teacher Shortage Fund, with the purpose of implementing the programs described above. 
SB 2682 has a companion bill in the House, HB 765.

DateDetails
2/19/24On February 19, SB 2682 was referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee and Senate Education Committee.
2/29/24On February 29, the Senate Education Committee passed SB 2682.
3/5/24On March 5, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed SB 2682.
3/13/24On March 13, the Senate amended and passed SB 2682.
4/2/24On April 2, the House Appropriations Committee amended SB 2682 to strip out the language that would have expanded the Winter-Reed program. The House Education Committee then passed SB 2682 as amended.
4/10/24On April 10, the House amended and passed SB 2682. As amended, the bill contains a reverse repealer, meaning that the Senate will likely invite conference.