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Falling Economy Stokes Creativity

The nose-diving economy has brought out the creative side of lawmakers trying to solve long-running problems in schools, like teacher retention.

In Utah, where a study found that more than half the teachers who left their jobs in 2006-07 have taught for less than five years, a lawmaker is sponsoring a bill that would make home-buying more affordable for new teachers, thereby giving them an incentive to stay on.

Teachers in their first five years on the job would get $15,000 loans to buy homes. They would pay interest on the loans, but the $15,000 principal would be forgiven if they met the requirement of teaching in the same district for five years, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

The idea of giving teachers housing loans or subsidized housing to improve teacher retention is one that's been practiced by districts for a long time now, although the Utah legislature has refused to adopt bills similar to this one for the past two years. But the bill's sponsor, Rep. Lynn Hemingway, is more hopeful this time, despite a bleak budget outlook, because he says his colleagues might see it as a way to jump-start the economy.

Besides, some teachers agree, while $15,000 might not have been a big deal in the hot real-estate market of years past, it can be a substantial chunk as home prices drop.

"If [lawmakers] really want to stimulate the real estate market, this is certainly not a bad way to do it," Hemingway told the Tribune. "On a teacher's salary, it's very difficult to save enough money for a down payment."

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