Para-educators could get a chance to pursue their teaching degree under a new bill crafted to retain committed and quality workers in Utah's classrooms.

While a program, the T.H. Bell Loan Program, already exists appropriating money to cover tuition for Utah teaching students in their last two years of college, a new proposal would allocate $1 million to award para-educators, such as teacher's aides and class assistants, scholarships to earn their associate's degree.

HB66, sponsored by Rep. Ronda Rudd Menlove, R-Garland, provides scholarships of up to $10,000 to para-educators employed by school districts and charter schools who are pursuing an associate's degree or bachelor's degree to become a licensed teacher.

Many para-educators only have a high school education but already have an interest in teaching and working with children.

Menlove said there are no "pay-back" provisions, but the scholarship recipients would be required to continue working in the schools while they are getting a degree.

"This will enable the community to retain our talented special educators who have already shown a commitment to the community," said Nan Gray, state director of special education. "Para-educators are encouraged by the bill and eager to take advantage of the (scholarships)."

The Utah School Employees Association and the Utah Education Association are in support of the bill.