Loan Forgiveness Bill Would Incent Great School Leaders to Work in High-Needs Schools, Principals Groups Say

Statement from the American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA), the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), representing the nation’s nearly 100,000 principals:

We applaud the House, specifically Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA), for introducing the Recruiting and Retaining Effective School Leaders Act, which will encourage prospective school leaders to enter the profession, incent the strongest school leaders to work in the nation’s highest-needs school districts, and reduce principal turnover. This legislation is a crucial step toward providing a consistent culture of learning and school improvement to students who need it the most.

Specifically, the bill would provide loan forgiveness over a seven-year period to elementary, middle, and high school principals who work in schools where at least 30 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Under this program, principals who graduate from high-quality preparation programs would receive loan forgiveness at a rate of 15 percent for the first four years and 20 percent for the remaining three years.

The current soaring principal turnover rate leaves low-income districts in an unstable cycle that harms vulnerable students the most. A preponderance of evidence confirms that it takes at least five years for a principal’s improvement efforts to take effect in schools––but these efforts are drastically hindered by continuous principal turnover. The Retaining Effective School Leaders Act is a concrete step toward removing that obstacle and retaining principals long enough to see their school improvement efforts come to fruition.

Becoming a school administrator requires an undergraduate and in most cases requires a graduate degree, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Instead of incurring debt, many prospective school leaders pursue less daunting professions, with higher salaries, and with a lower cost of entry.

Once principals are in place, attrition rates are high: 25,000 principals leave their schools each year and close to 50 percent of new principals leave during their third year in the profession. In New York State, schools paying below the mean salary for principals are almost 10 times more likely to lose their principal to another school than schools paying above the mean salary. With an average cost of $75,000 for developing, hiring, and onboarding a new principal, school districts spend millions of dollars annually to replace principals who have left the profession or transitioned to more affluent school districts.

Now is the time to revitalize the school leadership profession by enhancing the principal pipeline and significantly reducing annual turnover. Join AFSA, NAESP, and NASSP in calling for the passage of the Recruiting and Retaining Effective School Leaders Act.

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About AFSA
The American Federation of School Administrators is the exclusive union for administrators, professionals and supervisors advocating for excellence and equity in all of our schools, workplaces and communities. AFSA members are leaders in their schools and communities and are charged with the privilege and responsibility of helping to mold our nation’s students into successful, mindful individuals. As school leaders, AFSA members are constantly advocating for better public schools and systems of education. AFSA members are active in the labor movement and proudly stand in solidarity with all trade unionists and school administrators.

About NASSP
The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the leading organization of and national voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and all school leaders from across the United States and more than 35 countries around the world. The association connects and engages school leaders through advocacy, research, education, and student programs. NASSP advocates on behalf of all school leaders to ensure the success of each student and strengthens school leadership practices through the design and delivery of high quality professional learning experiences. Reflecting its long-standing commitment to student leadership development, NASSP administers the National Honor Society, National Junior Honor Society, National Elementary Honor Society, and National Association of Student Councils.

About NAESP
Principals are the primary catalysts for creating lasting foundations for learning. Since 1921, the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) has been the leading advocate for elementary and middle level principals in the United States and worldwide. NAESP advances the profession by developing policy, advancing advocacy and providing professional development and resources for instructional leadership, including specialized support and mentoring for early career principals. Key focus areas include pre-K-3 education, school safety, technology and digital learning, and effective educator evaluation. For more information about NAESP, please visit www.naesp.org. NAESP administers the National Principals Resource Center, the American Student Council Association, and the President’s Education Awards & American Citizenship Awards Programs.