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California Lawmakers Push Bills To Fix Teacher Shortage

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

California lawmakers and other speakers discuss new efforts to address the state's teacher shortage at a Capitol news conference Tuesday.

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

Just a few years after laying off tens of thousands of teachers during the recession, California school districts are suddenly facing a deep shortage of qualified teachers.

School spending has exploded during California’s economic recovery, thanks to soaring tax revenues. That has districts looking to hire.

But “teachers are an endangered species,” says state Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills).

“We’ve turned off a lot of people to teaching,“ adds Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica). “And part of it is that we’ve made it far too unaffordable.”

Data from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing show districts hired nearly 8,000 teachers in the 2014-15 school year with substandard permits or credentials.

“Especially in those schools with disadvantaged kids that are struggling the most, you’re putting the emergency credentialed teachers in there,“ Pavley says. “You can spend all the money you want, but it’s all about that teacher in the classroom.”

Her bill would forgive the student loans of teachers who spend four years at schools with large numbers of disadvantaged students, schools in rural areas, or in subjects like math and science where qualified teachers are hard to find.

Other bills would increase recruitment and mentoring efforts.

All three measures would require new state budget funding, meaning they’ll have to compete with lawmakers’ other spending priorities.