Dear Mr. President,
I am writing you to today because I am not sure where else to turn. I am not writing for just myself, but for perhaps thousands of public school teachers who are in the same situation as I find myself.
I have been teaching for thirteen years. I never imagined myself doing anything else. My earliest memories bring me back to the childhood wonder and admiration of the teachers who unlocked the mysteries of reading, writing, science, and math for me. In first grade, I proudly wrote, “When I grow up, I want to be a teacher.” Luckily for me, dreams do come true, and I have a job I love, despite the ever-present lynching of public school teachers in the media.
I was blessed to find a wonderful husband, and together we have a family of six children ranging in age from twenty-one, down to our six year old twins. As our family grew, so did the need for me to attempt to get my master’s degree in an attempt to increase my pay. Again, I had to use student loans.
I now find myself in debt, deeply in debt. My student loans prohibit me from getting ahead in life, for saving for my children’s educations, or even saving for a rainy day. Currently it’s all we can do to keep our house, (which is worth about half of what we owe on it) keep the growing children in clothes, and fed, and keep gas in our cars.
Recently, my student loan payments ballooned from $388 a month to over $1,000 a month, which is simply an impossible amount for me to come up with each month. My student loan debt has increased to a ridiculous amount over the years. In desperation, I applied for the Federal Teacher Loan forgiveness program, but was dismayed to find that I do not qualify, despite teaching in a high poverty district for my entire career because I have loans that were in existence prior to 1998. This stipulation simply does not make sense to me, as it seems that those of us that are teachers that are still trying to pay off our loans from prior to 1998 could really use some help!
Our public schools are under attack in Michigan. My little district of Ypsilanti is over 9 million dollars in debt. In addition to concessions that we have made in prior years, as we go into negotiations we know that we will again take pay cuts and pay more for our health benefits making those of us with heavy student loan debt finding ourselves faced with filing bankruptcy, losing our houses and cars, or struggling to feed our families. My American dream is becoming an American nightmare. Sometimes, I simply feel trapped and hopeless. My family and I, and many of families like ours are trapped in a murky purgatory. We make “too much” on paper, but not enough to loosen the noose of debt from around our necks. I guess that is what inspired me to write to you sir.
I do not envy your position Mr. President. I fully realize that the whole country is struggling during these difficult economic times, and there are many people in far worse situations than I find myself. I simply ask that as you consider economic stimulus packages, you consider easing student loan debt for teachers, especially those of us with “old” student loan debt.
God Bless America, and may God continue to bless you Mr. President.
God is good. All the time.