teachers

Updated at 1:05 p.m. ET

It's a financial nightmare for public school teachers across the country: Federal grants they received to work in low-income schools were converted to thousands of dollars in loans that they now must pay back.

"I thought this just happened to me."

That's the refrain from dozens of teachers who reached out to NPR — via email and social media — in response to our investigative story about serious problems with a federal grant program that, they say, have left them unfairly saddled with thousands of dollars of debts they shouldn't have to pay.

Teachers have staged protests in recent weeks in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Colorado and Arizona. Some are fighting lawmakers who want to scale back their pensions.

It's no secret that many states have badly underfunded their teacher pension plans for decades and now find themselves drowning in debt. But this pensions fight is also complicated by one little-known fact:

America needs teachers committed to working with children who have the fewest advantages in life. So for a decade the federal government has offered grants — worth up to $4,000 a year — to standout college students who agree to teach subjects like math or science at lower-income schools.

Nick Evans / WOSU

“Want to see something cool?” Matt Hysell asks, popping his head into a classroom. 

He’s marching down the hallway almost before I can answer. 

Nearly three-fourths of U.S. teachers do not want to carry guns in school, and they overwhelmingly favor gun control measures over security steps meant to "harden" schools, according to a new Gallup poll.

One in five teachers do not report incidents of violence they experience in their classrooms, according to a study led by an Ohio State University researcher.

The study, paid for by the American Psychological Association, surveyed 3,403 K-12 teachers in 48 states. More than 2,500 responded that they had experienced some type of physical or verbal abuse by a student, a threat of violence, or an inappropriate sexual advance.

The teachers strike in West Virginia may have ended last week when Gov. Jim Justice signed a law giving educators a 5 percent pay increase, but the fight in other states is just warming up.

"You can make anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 more by driving 15 minutes across the state line," said Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association. "We're having trouble keeping and attracting young teachers."

On Dec. 28, 2014, Leelah Alcorn died after walking into traffic on a highway near her hometown of Kings Mills, Ohio. The 17-year-old identified as transgender, and in a suicide note published online, which became national news, Alcorn wrote:

"The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren't treated the way I was, they're treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something."

More than half of transgender teachers face harassment or discrimination in the workplace, according to an NPR Ed survey of transgender and gender-nonconforming educators.

The survey of 79 trans and gender-nonconforming teachers from the U.S. and Canada found that the harassment they face ranges widely: from 20 percent who reported verbal harassment, to 17 percent who said they'd been asked to change how the present themselves, such as their clothing, to two teachers who said they'd been fired.

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