Capitol Alert

Bills aim to fix California teacher shortage

Facing a growing teacher shortage, California school districts have lately turned to subsidized housing and signing bonuses to fill empty positions.

On Tuesday, lawmakers announced a series of bills they hope will close the gap experts say was caused by mass layoffs during the economic recession, a strong recovery that has funneled more money back into classrooms and an enrollment decline of more than 75 percent in teacher credentialing programs over the past 15 years.

▪  Senate Bill 62, by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, would forgive student loans for teachers who spend at least four years at a school in a disadvantaged or rural area, or where there are large numbers of long-term substitutes.

▪  Senate Bill 915, by Sen. Carol Liu, D-La Cañada Flintridge, would re-establish the California Center on Teaching Careers to recruit prospective teachers, provide information on financial aid and credentialing, and connect them with jobs.

▪  Senate Bill 933, by Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, would fund residency programs for new teachers to apprentice alongside a mentor in a classroom of low-income students while they are getting their credentials.

The legislation aims to create financial incentives for Californians to enter a profession where the pay can be low, and to support teachers during the early years of their careers when they are more likely to drop out.

“Teachers are an endangered species,” Pavley said at a Capitol news conference. “Why invest in all these things for the classroom if you aren’t investing in the most important part of the classroom, and that’s a quality teacher that’s going to be committed?”

Several of the bills revive policies that were cut during the recession, but they could face resistance during a legislative session in which Gov. Jerry Brown has pushed back on new spending – particularly the loan-forgiveness proposal, which would tap money from the state general fund that has not already been reserved for K-12 education spending by Proposition 98.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff