UNC-backed legislation guarantees stipends for Colorado teacher education students
Student educators across the state could have the opportunity to reduce the financial burdens they face as they progress to becoming licensed teachers. On Thursday, May 26, 2022, Governor Jared Polis signed into law House Bill 1220. The legislation creates several state-funded stipend programs for student educators, including the ability to be paid while completing clinical practice, payment of assessment fees and temporary loan forgiveness for educators.
“We are really excited about what this could offer our current students and how it could remove some of the barriers to attracting more people into the teaching profession,” said Jared Stallones, Ph.D.Dean of the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences (EBS) at the University of Northern Colorado (UNC).
Stallones and other UNC faculty have been advocating for student teachers for financial support for years. During this legislative session, Stallones testified before the House and Senate Education Committees emphasizing how much help is needed.
“Educator preparation has been designed, over the past few decades, to follow the medical education model so that students increasingly spend more time in classrooms with clinical experiences as part of their curriculum,” Stallones said. “The difference is that when health professionals enter internship or residency, they are paid. Student teachers are generally not paid.
Stallones says not every student can afford to take a semester or a year off and work full-time for free. The price becomes too expensive, preventing a population necessary for the profession from becoming teachers.
“Students who are excluded from these programs include underrepresented minorities, economically disadvantaged students, and first-generation students,” Stallones says. “These are people who are much more like the students of the K-12 system. It is important to have this representation in the classroom.
Prospective teachers must also pass assessment tests to become certified teachers, and these cost money.
“Each test, and there’s a series of tests depending on the license they’re applying for, can add up to over $600,” Stallones said. “And that’s assuming they’re successful the first time they take it.”
Returning in the fall, EBS School of Special Education Director Corey Pierce, Early childhood special education teacher Nancy Sileo, Ed.D. and graduate student Madelyn Smith, conducted a survey asking UNC education students if they knew about school spending insecurity and 48% said yes. Students were also asked if they would have difficulty making an unexpected expense of $250 and 60% said yes. This percentage rose to 77% when asked if they would have trouble coming up with an unexpected expense of $500.
“Our students are struggling financially,” Stallones said. “We don’t want built-in barriers; we want to reduce them as much as possible.
According to the legislation, in the state’s 2022-2023 fiscal year, $52 million of the economic stimulus and cash relief fund will go to three programs. The first is the Student Educator Stipend Program, which will allow eligible students participating in required clinical practice or student teaching for 16 weeks to receive a stipend of up to $11,000, and those participating for 32 weeks to receive an allowance of up to $22,000. . The second is the Educator Testing Stipend Program, which provides student assistance that could be used to pay fees and costs associated with professional competency assessment for licensing. The final allocation creates a temporary educator loan relief program for educators who are hired for a hard-to-staff educator position.
“This bill is historic. It’s important for people to understand,” Stallones said. “There have been grant programs across the country and pilot programs to try to support student teachers, but this is the first time I’ve seen a state get behind this and try to do this. “
HB1220 comes at a time when the nation and state are facing a teacher shortage. Stallones thinks this new legislation will help in attracting more people to the profession.
“Education is the infrastructure of our infrastructure. Nothing else works if we don’t get a good education and that’s a step towards the right one,” Stallones said.
Stallones hopes it will become a regular part of state funding. He would hate to see passionate student teachers driven away from the profession due to financial burdens.
“Teaching is such a great career, I spent 20 of the happiest years of my life teaching high school students,” Stallones said. “It’s such a fulfilling and rich way to spend your life.
Eligibility for assistance will be linked to income thresholds.
According to the legislation, for the state’s 2022-23 fiscal year, $52 million is earmarked for the Colorado Department of Higher Education from the Economic Recovery and Relief Fund to be distributed to the following programs:
- $39 million for the student educator allowance program;
- $3 million for the educator testing stipend program; and
- $10 million for the Educator Loan Vacation Program.