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Tenn. lawmaker, education expert floating idea of free education degrees, debt forgiveness

The lottery fund is used to help people get into college by way of scholarships and grants. He’s suggesting taking that money and refocusing it on education grads.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Forty percent of the state’s teachers are eligible to retire.

This comes as fewer people are getting education degrees, the CEO and Executive Director of the Professional Educators of Tennessee said.

JC Bowman said he’s been working with lawmakers to come up with a solution. He wants to offer free education degrees and debt forgiveness.

Representative Scott Cepicky (R-District 64) said he’s been talking to Bowman about this, and is interested.

He says teachers that graduate and maintain certain criteria — like teaching in an underserved community — could get some of their debt forgiven.

He said the state could pay for it by using funds from the Tennessee Lottery fund.

Right now, the lottery fund is used to help people get into college by way of scholarships and grants. He’s suggesting taking that money and refocusing on the education students who graduate.

“Right now, we have a graduation rate of Tennessee Promise students at 51%, so there’s a lot of money that we’re spending for kids to go to college, but we’re not getting them across the finish line,” Cepicky said.

He said the lottery fund has a surplus that keeps rolling over.

The Tennessee Department of Education has a program that already does some of this – called the Grow Your Own program. That program is currently in its second round, funded through federal COVID-19 stimulus funds.