Brown wants to use federal money for teacher shortage

Brown wants to use federal money for teacher shortage

(Calif.) As budget negotiations between Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders are quickly finalizing, there appears to be an agreement to redirect about $11.3 million in federal funds to help with the state’s teacher shortage.

Although talks are likely to continue until the June 15 deadline, the idea is to establish a new grant program open to all school districts, charters and county offices of education to assist with recruitment and retention of both teachers and school administrators.

Use of the funds could include a variety of activities, such as helping existing teachers obtain new credentials, especially in high need subjects including science, math and special education. The money could also be used to establish a mentorship program for young teachers or build new training pathways with a local community college.

As proposed, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing and the California Center for Teaching Careers would be tasked with creating the grant program itself, which lawmakers want to name the California Educator Development Program.

Currently, the plan is to award at least 30 grants, which would be made on a competitive basis, in amounts no less than $100,000, and no more than $1.25 million.

Joshua Speaks, spokesman for the CTC, said there remain some details to be worked out, but that the “general concept” of the grant program was approved last week by subcommittees in both houses.

The version of the plan passed in the Senate, however, would earmark $4 million of the money to specifically recruit teachers in science, technology, engineering and math.

About 75 percent of school districts in California report having some level of shortage in classroom teachers during the past two years, forcing them to hiring instructors that are not yet fully credentialed or have substandard permits, according to a report issued by the Learning Institute in February.

Part of the problem is blamed on lingering doubts about the teaching profession caused by the recession and the thousands of resulting teacher layoffs. While enrollment in teacher preparation programs in the state jumped 10 percent in 2013-14, the number of new credentials issued in 2014-15 was just a 1.6 percent increase from the prior year.

The new grants would be funded out of California’s share money award by Congress under Title II of the Every Student Succeeds Act, which is generally aimed at providing professional development for teachers.

Last year, California received about $230 million in Title II money. Under ESSA, states can hold back 5 percent of their allocation for administrative costs.

In the past, state regulators needed only about 3 percent to perform their work, allowing the remaining 2 percent to be released to LEAs statewide.

By rerouting the federal funds, Brown also solves a political problem as a number of bills have been introduced to help close the teacher shortage. Brown, who offered no new money in his budget using state funds to address the shortage, would be loath to sign legislation that would create a new drain on the state.