Colorado News Connection

April 18, 2017Available files: mp3 wav jpg

New Bill Would Help Bring Teachers to Rural Schools

Eric Galatas

DENVER - A new bill introduced in the Colorado House would give graduating teachers a financial incentive to teach in the state's struggling rural districts, and also help middle-class families put away money to send their kids to college.

A recent Denver Post report found some 3,000 teaching slots are at risk of going unfilled in Colorado, in part because fewer teachers are graduating.

Ali Mickelson, director of tax and legislative policy for the Colorado Fiscal Institute, says HB 1324 would help recruit and retain educators by offering a five-year tax credit if they teach in rural districts.

"The point of having a five-year tax credit is it allows them to put some roots down in that area, and hopefully stay there for life and become a part of that community, and really make a difference teaching there," she explained.

Student teachers would get a one-time refundable tax credit of $2,500 for tuition costs, and after graduating would get an additional $15,000 in credits if they complete five years in rural districts.

Mickelson adds the measure would end up paying for itself, and generate additional revenue, because of a shift in how the state encourages families to save for college.

Colorado's current 529 College Savings Plan almost exclusively benefits families earning more than $100,000 a year, people who already can afford to send their kids to college.

Mickelson says increasing deductions for middle-income families, and lowering deductions for the state's wealthiest, would give more Coloradans access to higher education.

"And what's really important about this bill is it reaches a group that we call the doughnut-hole group, who maybe make a little too much money to receive financial aid, but not enough money to afford the ever-increasing cost of college every year," she added.

Taxpayers who earn less than $100,000 a year would get double what they put into the 529 savings plan in the form of a tax deduction. Top earners would get lower deductions as their income brackets rise.