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MT Tries to Keep More Teachers in Town

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 By Deborah Smith/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - MT, Contact
March 24, 2008

Helena, MT – Montana is rolling out the welcome mat for new teachers, as soon-to-be college graduates start looking for jobs over the next couple of months. The state is offering up to $3,000 a year to help new teachers and other professional educators make a dent in their college debt, which averages $25,000.

Marco Ferro with the Montana Education Association-Montana Federation of Teachers believes that keeping educators close to home is good Economics 101.

"Average teacher salaries when they come out in Montana are about $28,000. So the math just doesn't work out for them, and they're being lured to other states."

Ferro notes the program helps address staffing shortages, attracting highly qualified teachers and professionals to rural schools, particular programs or districts with a higher percentage of economically disadvantaged students.

"We can at least recruit them to these critical shortage areas: schools isolated in nature, or areas like music or special ed."

The loan assistance program was created by the legislature, and there's room to help at least 100 educators. Applications are available online at www.mgslp.org. The application deadline is May 31.

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