Santa Monica Lookout
|Santa Monica State Senator Ben Allen Tackles California Teacher Shortage|
By Lookout Staff
February 4, 2016 -- State Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, on Tuesday joined two other California lawmakers proposing new bills to reverse a critical shortage of teachers statewide by providing money for residency programs and other incentives to enter the field.
Allen’s legislation creates a “California Teacher Corps,” providing matching grants to school districts to create or expand teacher training programs. They are modeled on medical residencies, and already exist in such school districts in California as Los Angeles Unified, he said.
Under SB 933, aspiring teachers apprentice with an experienced mentor in the classroom for up to three school years while also studying to be credentialed. Allen’s bill would provide a novice teacher with up to $30,000 over three years in low-income schools in exchange for agreeing to a 4-year commitment to continue teaching there.
"We know that novice teachers who are trained by an experienced mentor are far more likely to stay in the profession for the long term,” Allen, a former member of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education, said in unveiling the legislation in Sacramento.
“Teaching teachers how to teach is a proven way to guarantee more students will have access to a high quality education," he said.
Allen appeared with fellow state senators Fran Pavley, D-Agora Hills, and Carol Liu, D-La Canada Flintridge, to announce the new proposed bills, saying the legislation is needed to restore the ranks of teachers depleted by layoffs during the Great Recession that started in 2007.
According to the California Teachers Association, California has the nation’s worst student-to-teacher ratios and estimates the state will need an additional 100,000 teachers over the next decade just to retain current levels.
Low-income rural and urban areas have been particularly hard hit, although shortages in certain subject areas like math and science are more uniformly reported.
Senate Bill 62 by Pavley, a middle school teacher for 29 years, would forgive student loans for teachers who devote at least four years to a school in a poor or rural area, or where the district relies on a large number of long-term substitutes.
The legislation by Liu, Senate Bill 915, re-establishes the California Center on Teaching Careers in order to recruit possible teachers and connect them with information on financial aid, credentialing and future jobs. Liu is chairperson of the Education Committee.
A representative of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District said officials there are following the legislation, but that the district counts itself among the lucky ones.
“We are fortunate in SMMUSD that we do attract highly qualified, credentialed teachers with our attractive compensation package, professional development opportunities, engaged parent community and our desirable locations of Santa Monica and Malibu,” said spokesperson Gail Pinsker.
“Our Board of Education is dedicated to ensuring a highly qualified, effective and diverse work force that is representative of our schools and community,” she said. “We have continuous conversations around methods of recruiting and attracting teachers who support our goals and values.
The proposals followed findings during a recent Senate Education hearing that the demand is high again for teachers as districts try to rebuild after the lean years of the long recession.
Districts in California hired an estimated 20,000 new teachers for the current school year, officials said. Nonetheless, teacher preparation programs are lagging, with those at state universities falling 75 percent between 2001 and 2014, they said.
Allen said the state Commission on Teacher Credentialing reports nearly 8,000 teachers with substandard credentials or provisional permits were working in California classrooms in the 2014-15 school year -- a 63 percent increase from just two years earlier.
Liu’s legislation would re-establish CalTeach, which was used for teacher recruitment in California in the 1990s but discontinued due to budget constraints in the 2001-2001 school year and repealed in 2008.
"Cal-Teach will provide prospective educators with valuable information about becoming credentialed and make entry into the profession simpler,” she said.
“As we consider how to address the teacher shortage we must employ a holistic strategy that focuses on recruiting, retaining, and rewarding educators.
We are poised to move a Senate educator package that does just that and I look forward to working with my colleagues to address this important issue."
Likewise, Pavley’s proposal reinstates a phased-out state program forgiving student loan debt for new teachers.
To qualify for the Assumption Program of Loans for Education, a new teacher would have to stay for four years at a school with large numbers of disadvantaged students, a rural school or a school with a large number of emergency permits.
New participants would also need to be in a declared shortage area and demonstrate financial need, she said.
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