A new California budget, hammered out by Gov. Gavin Newsom and state legislators over several weeks, makes it easier for teacher candidates affected by coronavirus-related school and test center closures to complete credential and permit requirements.
The new budget, announced Monday, restores funding to K-12 school districts cut in the governor’s proposed May budget. To make up for revenue lost due to the coronavirus epidemic, the governor had proposed cutting funding by $6.4 billion and deferring payment of $5.7 billion to school districts until later in the year. The cuts were rescinded, but late payments will now total $11 billion.
The changes affecting teacher candidates were spelled out in trailer bills to the budget made public Tuesday.
The budget gives teacher candidates who have passed a test required for a credential or permit 11 years to complete other requirements and to be issued the document. Currently, teachers have 10 years to earn a credential or permit after passing a required test. The provision expires on June 30, 2021.
This school year, counselors, school psychologists, school social workers and attendance workers will only have to train at one school while earning the field experience required for certification. Previously, candidates for the pupil personnel services credential held by these workers had to work in two or more school settings, such as high school and an elementary school, as one of the requirements to earn certification. In some cases, the hours can be earned during virtual field practice. This provision is in effect until June 30, 2021.
The budget also extends the time teacher candidates can submit information missing from applications for documents — such as credentials, permits, certificates and authorizations — to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Previously, candidates had 60 days to submit missing information without having to pay application fees again. Now, candidates have 120 days. This applies to all applications filed between March 19 of this year and June 30, 2021.
Candidates may need more time since offices that process those documents may be closed or backlogged, said Sasha Horwitz, spokesman for the commission.
Students in teacher preparation programs also may feel the impact of the reduced budget. A trailer bill that addresses student aid could reduce the amount of the Golden State Teacher Grant. The grant is given to eligible students who commit to teaching elementary school, bilingual education, math, science, technology, engineering or special education at a school with a high percentage of teachers holding emergency-type permits.
To earn the grant a teacher candidate must promise to work at a high-needs school for four years, or they are required to return a portion of the money.
The one-time grants of $20,000 began last year. The new budget says grants will now go “up to $20,000,” and calls on the Student Aid Commission to draw up new regulations for the program. The budget designates $88.4 million for the Golden State Teacher Grant program, down from $89.7 million appropriated in 2019. The funds will be available for use through June 20, 2023.
State officials have expressed concern over teacher shortages in schools in rural and low-income areas and in high-needs subjects like science, math, bilingual education and special education. The result of the shortages has been a record number of teachers in classrooms who have not completed teaching preparation programs or have received only partial training.
Last month, the governor issued an executive order suspending state testing requirements for teacher candidates because testing centers were closed. The order gives teacher candidates additional time to take tests required to enter teacher preparation programs or to complete credentialing requirements.
Earlier this year, the California Assembly Education Committee, concerned that coronavirus-related campus and testing center closures would keep needed teachers out of classrooms, approved legislation that would temporarily allow California teacher candidates to take fewer tests to prove they are ready to teach. The legislation is scheduled to be reviewed by a Senate committee in July.
The Commission on Teacher Credentialing passed several resolutions in April that would make it easier for teacher candidates to move into classrooms despite hurdles created by campus and testing site closures. The commission voted to waive the 600-hour requirement for student teaching and to allow university educators to decide when teacher candidates are ready to teach.
It also voted to allow credential programs to request waivers from the commission for candidates who have not completed all credentialing requirements, such as exams, coursework and practice hours, due to the pandemic. The waiver would allow teachers to complete those requirements while working as teachers. The waivers are limited to candidates who, before the crisis, were on track to complete all their classes by September.