Betsy DeVos Fail: For Thousands of Teachers, Grants Turn into Loans

Thanks to a year-long investigation by NPR reporters, thousands of teachers who saw their grants from the federal Department of Education turn into loans can breathe easy again. But no kudos to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her cronies.

Here’s what happened.

In 2007, the Department of Education (ED) created a program known as TEACH (Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education), which offered college or graduate school grants of $4,000 a year for aspiring teachers who agreed to teach subjects like math or science in a school serving low-income students for four years.

These novice teachers had eight years from when they graduated to complete their requirement, and they had to file paperwork every summer to prove they were teaching in an underserved school.

What a great way to ensure all children in the U.S. get the high quality education that is their right. A win-win for everybody.

Or not.

The problem was that summer paperwork. For a start, it posed a challenge to fill out. According to NPR, even the ED called the form “too complicated and confusing” in an internal document. But it’s not just that: the form was often sent to outdated addresses and required the signature of a principal who might well be on summer vacation.

And if there was the slightest issue, like a missing signature, or if the paperwork arrived a day late, the results were immediate and draconian. The grant was no longer a grant; it turned into a loan, payable with interest.

That’s what happened to Kaitlyn McCollum, who teaches at Columbia Central High School in Tennessee.

“For three years, McCollum sent in her paperwork on time without incident,” NPR reports. ”But in her fourth year of teaching, that last year she had to submit it, she was told her form had arrived late, and her grants were converted to loans, with interest. That’s why she now owes more than $24,000.”

McCollum filed an appeal, as have more than 4,000 other teachers, but her appeal was denied.

Betsy DeVos should be ashamed of herself.

Teachers who have devoted years of their lives to serve young people in low-income areas should be praised, not punished.

It is only thanks to National Public Radio that these injustices have been revealed.

NPR launched its investigation earlier this year, and this drew the attention of the ED, which decided that a review of the TEACH program was in order.

December 9 the Department announced that it will erase all the debts that teachers have incurred and fix this grant program.

That might sound great, but the onus is still on teachers to be proactive. Federal Student Aid Communications Director April Jordan made it clear that teachers “need to raise their hand and tell us that they want us to take a look at their certification again.”

And there has been no apology to the thousands of teachers whose lives have been disrupted.

This is all so emblematic of Betsy DeVos’s total disregard for public education and her attempts to try and destroy it. The Education Secretary has said it’s “urgent that these mistakes are fixed,” but it was her department that caused the mistakes in the first place.

As a former public school teacher, I am outraged that this woman, who neither attended public school nor send her children to one, is in charge of our public school system. As a wealthy Republican, Betsy DeVos came in bent on destroying public schools through her push for school choice, school vouchers and charter schools, and during her tenure she has worked to gut many important protections for students.

Thank you, National Public Radio, for doing the right thing and showing up the tragedy for our students and teachers of having Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

44 comments

Sophie A
Sophie A5 hours ago

Thank you

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Jeanne M
Jeanne M6 days ago

Most enlightening. But not at all surprising.

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Emma L
Emma L10 days ago

thank you for sharing

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Chad A
Chad A21 days ago

Thank you.

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Dr. Jan H
Dr. Jan Hill26 days ago

thanks

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Ciaron Drain
Ciaron Drainabout a month ago

Betsy De Vos is simply unqualified for the role and this is yet another example of her failures. Still she is cashing in thanks to the Trump kakocracy.

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Glennis W
Glennis Wabout a month ago

Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis Wabout a month ago

Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis Wabout a month ago

Thank you for caring and sharing

SEND
Glennis W
Glennis Wabout a month ago

Thank you for caring and sharing

SEND