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Montana Bill Aims to Recruit, Reward Rural Teachers

Legislation proposed by U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., would offer scholarships and loan forgiveness for Montana college students who commit to teaching in rural schools, according to a story by the Billings Gazette.

The bill, which is aimed at recruiting and retaining teachers, would provide scholarships for students who commit to three years of teaching in a rural school, and up to $17,000 in loan forgiveness after teachers have taught in a rural area for five years. According to a press release from Tester's office, the bill would also provide funding to rural school districts to reimburse teachers for the costs of becoming certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

"In many rural areas the school is the foundation of the town," Tester said in the release. "Building a strong pipeline of motivated teachers from our universities to our rural schools will provide students with a good education and strengthen the entire community."

More than 75 percent of schools in Montana are rural, and the state has a higher percentage of small rural districts than any other state in the country.

Rural states nationwide have considered similar legislation in recent years. Earlier this year, the South Carolina House approved a budget amendment that asked the state's teacher advocacy center to develop an incentive program for rural educators. In South Dakota, lawmakers crafted legislation to provide tuition assistance to paraprofessionals in rural areas who want to become teachers as well as a bill that would reimburse new teachers who decide to work in rural schools. 

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