(1) The Critical Teacher Shortage Student Loan Forgiveness Program is established to encourage qualified personnel to seek employment in subject areas in which critical teacher shortages exist, as identified annually by the State Board of Education. The primary function of the program is to make repayments toward loans received by students from federal programs or commercial lending institutions for the support of postsecondary education study. Repayments are intended to be made to qualified applicants who begin teaching for the first time in designated subject areas, and who apply during their first year of teaching as certified teachers in these subject areas.
(2) The Department of Education may make loan principal repayments, which shall be prorated based on available appropriations, as follows:
(a) Up to $2,500 a year for up to 4 years on behalf of selected graduates of state-approved undergraduate postsecondary teacher preparation programs, persons certified to teach pursuant to any applicable teacher certification requirements, or selected teacher preparation graduates from any state participating in the Interstate Agreement on the Qualification of Educational Personnel.
(b) Up to $5,000 a year for up to 2 years on behalf of selected graduates of state-approved graduate postsecondary teacher preparation programs, persons with graduate degrees certified to teach pursuant to any applicable teacher certification requirements, or selected teacher preparation graduates from any state participating in the Interstate Agreement on the Qualification of Educational Personnel.
(c) All repayments shall be contingent on continued proof of employment in the designated subject areas in this state and shall be made directly to the holder of the loan. The state shall not bear responsibility for the collection of any interest charges or other remaining balance. In the event that designated critical teacher shortage subject areas are changed by the State Board of Education, a teacher shall continue to be eligible for loan forgiveness as long as he or she continues to teach in the subject area for which the original loan repayment was made and otherwise meets all conditions of eligibility.
(3) Students receiving a scholarship loan or a fellowship loan are not eligible to participate in the Critical Teacher Shortage Student Loan Forgiveness Program.
(4) The State Board of Education may adopt rules pursuant to ss. 120.536(1) and 120.54 necessary for the administration of this program.
(5) This section shall be implemented only to the extent as specifically funded and authorized by law.