EdAction in Congress

EdAction in Congress October 10, 2021

Victory! PSLF overhauled after 48,000 NEA members demand action

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education announced a major overhaul of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program that means imminent relief for tens of thousands of public service workers and eventual relief for many more. PSLF was created to forgive the student debt of public employees, like educators, who work in public service for 10 years and make 120 qualifying payments on their student loans.

The changes include a broad, temporary expansion of the kind of payments that count toward PSLF. Originally, the program was limited to on-time payments through federal Direct loans on Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plans. Now, borrowers may receive retroactive credit for payments on Perkins, Federal Family Education (FFEL) Loans, and other older federal student loans. Previous non-IDR payments may also count.

“This could not have happened without the activism of more than 48,000 NEA members who sent letters and public comments to ED regarding the broken PSLF program,” said NEA President Becky Pringle. “This is a welcome step towards keeping the promise of PSLF and cancelling the student debt of every educator who has served their commitment to their communities.”

About 550,000 public service workers will see their progress toward PSLF grow by 23 monthly payments, on average. For 22,000 of those individuals, forgiveness will be automatic—$1.74 billion in relief. Another 27,000 may receive forgiveness if they re-apply to certify additional periods of employment—another $2.82 billion in relief. Tens of thousands more (and perhaps hundreds of thousands more) will be eligible for relief, but to get it they must apply by Oct. 31, 2022. In contrast, the PSLF program to date has denied 98 percent of the applications filed and forgiven just 16,100 borrowers. Click for further information.

Educators speak out: In decaying buildings, we cannot keep students safe

Every student deserves a safe environment to develop their love for learning. Throughout the pandemic, school buildings across the country have turned into spaces where students and families can access WiFi, regular meals, and more, in addition to academic success. The buildings that serve our school communities are deserving of the same care and investment. Read more.

Cheers and Jeers

Reps. Conor Lamb (D-PA), Tom Reed (R-NY), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), and Jackie Walorski (R-IN) introduced the Supporting Early-Childhood Educators through Deductions (SEED) Act (H.R. 5254), a bipartisan bill that would allow pre-K teachers to claim the current $250 educator expense deduction. 

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) gave a speech on the Senate floor in support of the changes in the PSLF program that will, in his words, “immediately erase the debt of 22,000 borrowers—more than the total number of loans that have been forgiven so far under the program.”

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced the Unemployment Insurance Improvement Act (S. 2865) that includes targeted reforms to keep the program up and running even during emergencies. Every state would be required to provide at least 26 weeks of regular unemployment benefits.

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