Teacher, doctor financial incentive bills advance

TRENTON – Bills that would offer financial incentives for teachers and doctors were heard in the Senate Education Committee Thursday.

S162, which has been before the Legislature before, would set up a Physician Loan Redemption Program for physicians in particular practices who agree to work in the state for 10 years.

The bill would target specialties where it is feared a physician shortage might occur. The bill was released 4-1.

According to the schedule presented in the bill, 5 percent of principal and interest could be reimbursed in each of the first two years of the 10-year commitment.

During years three through nine, that would increase to 10 percent, and then in year 10 it would rise to 20 percent of principal and interest.

Sponsor Sen. Robert Singer said the bill addresses an increasing issue of not having enough doctors – pediatricians, primary care doctors – in the state that has one of the nation’s older populations.

Several physicians and hospitals associations supported the bill.

Singer said he would work on amendments to address concerns that have been raised, including lack of a funding source,

Sen. Michael Doherty, the lone no vote, said there is a  shortage but that under a free-enterprise system that should be an opportunity for doctors to come in, but that this targets a symptom of a failing economy.

Singer said New Jersey is the second oldest state in the country in terms of its aging population, and lacking incentives, they won’t locate here.

Another bill, S1487, would establish a somewhat similar program for teachers.  It would allow them to redeem a portion of their NJCLASS loan in exchange for teaching one of the so-called STEM subjects, expanded from just math or science. STEM include science, technology, engineering and math.

The bill also has been amended to apply to both public and non-public schools.

The bill was released by the same 4-1 vote, with Sen. Doherty voting no.

For teachers in certain districts, such as the former Abbott districts, the program would offer redemption of 45 percent of principal and interest on the loan after completing three years of teaching. For each year after that, redemption would be equal to 15 percent of principal and interest.

For teachers in other districts, redemption would be for 30 percent for completion of three years and 10 percent for each additional year.

The committee also heard these bills:

S2093/A1825: This requires the Department of Education to develop an educational fact sheet for distribution to parents concerning sports-related eye injuries. It passed unanimously.

A3195/S2975: This establishes a pilot program in the Department of Education to recruit and match minority men to teach in chronically failing schools.

The commissioner of Education would select six chronically failing schools, ideally two in each of the three regions of the state: north, central and south. Also, the commission would seek a cross-section of urban, suburban and rural area schools.

It passed unanimously.

Teacher, doctor financial incentive bills advance