Orrin Hatch: Back to school is an important time to remember our teachers

Alex Goodlett, Deseret News

University of Utah graduate Margarita Ruiz teaches during a class at Bryant Middle School in Salt Lake City on Monday, May 22, 2017.

As summer comes to a close and Utah’s students get ready to go back to school, I’m reminded of the critical role education plays in helping children reach their full potential. Many factors contribute to a student’s success, but none is more crucial than the presence of talented teachers.

Our teachers are indispensable. In fact, study after study prove that teacher quality is the single-greatest determinant of student success. This fact is even more pertinent as school districts across our state scramble to fill vacancies to address one of the worst teacher shortages in Utah’s history.

Our schools are losing teachers at an alarming rate, and unless we act quickly, our students will suffer the consequences. In Congress, I’m working hard to address this crisis by reducing the high turnover rate in the teaching profession that lies at the root of the current shortage.

Teaching is a noble profession — but it’s not an easy one. Educators work long hours, often for low pay, and their jobs require an extraordinary level of emotional investment that can leave many of them burned out after just a few years in the classroom. Nowhere is this phenomenon more apparent than in Utah, where over 70 percent of young teachers who entered the profession in 2008 had left within eight years.

We need new approaches at both the state and national levels to ensure that good teachers enter and remain in the profession. That’s why I introduced the Teacher Loan Repayment Act — a bipartisan initiative that streamlines federal loan assistance programs to alleviate the burden of student debt and encourage our brightest graduates to pursue careers in education.

The existing student loan repayment program is so complicated and cumbersome that few teachers actually take advantage of it. My bill, however, would improve the outdated patchwork of loan assistance programs and replace it with a streamlined process, making it easier for cash-strapped graduates to…

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