Outside the classroom of student teacher Ellie Howe on Wednesday, April 6, 2022, at Homestake Peak School in Avon. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

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Colorado student teachers will have access to up to $22,000 in stipends, and teachers who started their careers during the pandemic and have stuck with it can qualify for up to $5,000 in loan forgiveness, under a bill signed into law this week. 

Removing Barriers to Educator Preparation dedicates $52 million from federal relief money to getting new teachers into the classroom and keeping them there during a time when schools across the state are grappling with shortages. Fewer teachers were entering the profession before the pandemic, and shortages have only worsened. 

“A lot of teachers, people who want to be teachers, actually drop out of educator prep programs because they can’t afford it,” said state Rep. Cathy Kipp, a Fort Collins Democrat. “They can’t afford to work for free and pay tuition and not be able to hold down a second or third job.”

Kipp sponsored the bill with fellow Democrats state Rep. Barbara McLachlan of Durango and state Sen. Rachel Zenzinger of Arvada, as well as Republican state Sen. Don Coram of Montrose.

The new law also covers the costs of test fees for eligible educators, and creates alternative ways of getting a license for teacher candidates who struggle to pass Praxis exams. 

Gov. Jared Polis signed the bill to applause at a ceremony Thursday in which he also signed a slew of other education bills, including a major funding increase that lawmakers hope will lead to higher teacher pay and make staying in the classroom more attractive. 

Read more at chalkbeat.org.

Erica Meltzer is Bureau Chief of Chalkbeat Colorado, where she also covers the legislature and statewide education issues. Erica was a founding editor of the local news site Denverite. Before that, she covered everything from housing and energy...