SENATE BILL 173
54th legislature - STATE OF NEW MEXICO - second session, 2020
Linda M. Lopez
RELATING TO HIGHER EDUCATION; ENACTING THE SPECIAL EDUCATION LOAN FOR SERVICE ACT; PROVIDING POWERS AND DUTIES; REQUIRING ENFORCEABLE CONTRACTS; REQUIRING SERVICE FOR THE REPAYMENT OF A LOAN; PROVIDING PENALTIES IF CONTRACT TERMS ARE NOT FULFILLED; CREATING A FUND; MAKING AN APPROPRIATION.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO:
SECTION 1. [NEW MATERIAL] SHORT TITLE.--This act may be cited as the "Special Education Loan for Service Act".
SECTION 2. [NEW MATERIAL] PURPOSE.--The purpose of the Special Education Loan for Service Act is to proactively address New Mexico's critical special education teacher and instructional support provider shortages by providing students with the financial means to complete or enhance their post-secondary teaching preparation or special education instructional support professional degree in teaching or supporting special education.
SECTION 3. [NEW MATERIAL] DEFINITIONS.--As used in the Special Education Loan for Service Act:
A. "department" means the higher education department;
B. "loan" means a payment of money under contract between the department and a student that defrays the costs incidental to a teacher preparation program or pertinent instructional support provider professional degree offered in a regionally accredited post-secondary educational institution in New Mexico and that requires repayment in services;
C. "special education instructional support provider" means a dually licensed special education specialist, including diagnostician, school counselor, social worker, psychologist, speech-language pathologist, physical therapist, occupational therapist, recreational therapist or other professional with qualifications applicable to working with special education public school students and leading to dual licensure as a professional and a special education instructional support provider;
D. "student" means a United States citizen and resident of New Mexico who is enrolled in or accepted by an undergraduate or graduate teacher preparation program or undergraduate or graduate special education instructional support professional degree program at a regionally accredited post-secondary educational institution in New Mexico; and
E. "teacher preparation program" means a program that has been formally approved as meeting the requirements of the public education department for special education teachers and that leads to initial licensure or to additional licensure endorsements.
SECTION 4. [NEW MATERIAL] TEACHER STUDENT LOANS AUTHORIZED--QUALIFICATIONS.--
A. The department may grant a loan to a student deemed qualified by the department upon such terms and conditions as may be imposed by rule of the department.
B. The department shall only receive, pass upon and allow or disallow an application for a loan made by a student who declares the intent to serve as a public school special education teacher or special education instructional support provider in a designated teacher shortage area of New Mexico. Teacher shortage areas may be either geographic or discipline- specific.
C. The department shall make a full and careful investigation of the ability and qualifications of each applicant to become a recipient of a loan. The department shall give preference to qualified applicants who demonstrate financial need.
D. The department and the public education department shall arrange for loan recipients to receive assistance in locating employment with public schools in New Mexico.
SECTION 5. [NEW MATERIAL] LOANS--CONTRACT TERMS--REPAYMENT.--
A. Each applicant who is approved for a loan by the department may be granted a loan in such amount and for such period as the department determines. The loan shall not exceed the necessary expenses incurred while attending a teacher preparation or special education instructional support professional program.
B. A loan shall bear interest at the rate of:
(1) eighteen percent per year if the loan recipient completes a teacher preparation or special education instructional support professional program and no portion of the principal and interest is forgiven pursuant to Subsection F of this section; or
(2) seven percent per year in all other cases.
C. Loans made pursuant to the Special Education Loan for Service Act shall not accrue interest until the department:
(1) determines the loan recipient has terminated the loan recipient's teacher preparation or special education instructional support professional program prior to completion;
(2) determines the loan recipient has failed to fulfill the loan recipient's obligation to practice as a licensed teacher or dually licensed special education instructional support provider in New Mexico; or
(3) cancels a contract between a loan recipient and the department pursuant to Section 8 of the Special Education Loan for Service Act.
D. The loan shall be evidenced by a contract between the loan recipient and the department acting on behalf of the state. The contract shall provide for the payment by the state of a stated sum covering the costs of a teacher preparation or special education instructional support professional program and shall be conditioned on the repayment of the loan to the state over a period established by the department after the completion of the teacher preparation or special education instructional support professional program and any postgraduate study or internship required to complete the loan recipient's education.
E. A loan made to a recipient who fails to complete a teacher preparation or special education instructional support professional program shall become due immediately upon termination of the teacher preparation or special education instructional support professional program. The department, in consultation with the loan recipient, shall establish terms of repayment, alternate service or cancellation.
F. The contract shall provide that the department shall forgive a portion of the loan for each year that the loan recipient practices as a licensed teacher or dually licensed special education instructional support provider in New Mexico. The loan shall be forgiven as follows:
(1) loan terms of one year shall require one year of practice. Upon completion of service, one hundred percent of the loan shall be forgiven;
(2) loan terms of two years shall require one year of practice for each year of the loan. Upon completion of the first year of service, fifty percent of the loan shall be forgiven. Upon completion of the second year of service, the remainder of the loan shall be forgiven; and
(3) for loan terms of three years or more, forty percent of the loan shall be forgiven upon completion of the first year of service, thirty percent of the loan shall be forgiven upon completion of the second year of service and the remainder of the loan shall be forgiven upon completion of the third year of service.
G. A loan recipient shall serve a complete contract year in order to receive credit for that year. The minimum credit for a year shall be established by the department.
H. If a loan recipient completes a teacher preparation or special education instructional support professional program and does not serve in a New Mexico public school, the department shall assess a penalty of up to three times the principal due, plus eighteen percent interest, unless the department finds acceptable extenuating circumstances that prevent the loan recipient from serving. If the department does not find acceptable extenuating circumstances for the loan recipient's failure to carry out the loan recipient's declared intent to serve, the department shall require immediate repayment of the loan plus the amount of any interest and penalty assessed pursuant to this section.
I. The department shall adopt and promulgate rules to implement the provisions of this section. The rules may provide for the repayment of loans in annual or other periodic installments.
SECTION 6. [NEW MATERIAL] CONTRACTS--LEGAL ASSISTANCE--ENFORCEMENT.--The general form of the contract shall be prepared and approved by the attorney general and signed by the loan recipient and a designee of the department on behalf of the state. The department is vested with full and complete authority and power to sue in its own name for any balance due the state from a loan recipient on a contract.
SECTION 7. [NEW MATERIAL] FUND CREATED--METHOD OF PAYMENT.--The "special education loan for service fund" is created in the state treasury. Money appropriated for loans pursuant to the Special Education Loan for Service Act; earnings from investment of the fund; gifts, grants and donations to the fund; and all payments of principal and interest on loans made pursuant to that act shall be deposited in the fund. Money in the fund shall not revert at the end of a fiscal year. The fund shall be administered by the department. All payments of money for loans shall be made on warrants drawn by the secretary of finance and administration pursuant to vouchers signed by the department's designated representative.
SECTION 8. [NEW MATERIAL] CANCELLATION.--The department may cancel a contract between the department and a loan recipient for any reasonable cause deemed sufficient by the department.
SECTION 9. [NEW MATERIAL] REPORTS.--The department shall report annually by January 1 to the governor and the legislature on its activities pursuant to the Special Education Loan for Service Act, including the loans granted, the names and addresses of loan recipients, the teacher preparation and special education instructional support professional programs loan recipients are attending and the names and locations of practice of loan recipients who have completed their education and are teaching or providing special education instructional support.
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