Budget Targets Funds to Teacher Quality
The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2005 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
Aiming to fill future vacancies left by the expected retirements of thousands of teachers in the next few years, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation following this year’s legislative session that seeks to remove barriers that discourage out-of-state teachers from working in the state and provides incentives to encourage skilled teachers to work in the neediest schools.
The law also establishes new mentoring programs for beginning teachers and rewards veteran educators who work as mentors with $6,000 annual stipends.
“This bipartisan legislation will strengthen California’s teacher pipeline and help to ensure that all children have fair access to fully prepared and effective teachers,” Margaret Gaston, the executive director of the Santa Cruz, Calif.-based Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning, said in a press release.
The governor’s $55.1 billion education budget for 2006-07—a 5 percent increase over the 2005-06 budget—includes $22.7 million to implement the teacher-quality legislation.
The budget also includes $50 million for a one-time School Enrichment Block Grant, which schools can use to recruit and retain high-quality teachers and principals, and $1.5 million to increase the number of math and science teachers receiving training at the University of California and California State University systems.
Mr. Schwarzenegger, however, vetoed legislation that would have expanded professional- development opportunities for science teachers.
“This measure was designed to help improve the skills of California’s science teachers so that they can better prepare our students to thrive in this new economy,” state schools Superintendent Jack O’Connell said in a press release. “It is unfortunate that Governor Schwarzenegger did not show leadership in this area by signing this bill or including funding for the professional development of science teachers in the state budget.”
In other matters, the governor signed legislation to encourage more involvement in extracurricular activities and physical education. The legislation includes $500 million for new equipment and supplies for physical education, the arts, and music. In addition, the measure promotes better nutrition by allowing schools and county offices of education to apply for grants to operate instructional gardens in which students learn how to grow and harvest vegetables.
Meanwhile, the state’s targeted preschool program for children from low-income families will see an increase of $100 million, with $50 million of that going to build and improve preschool facilities; additional middle and high school counselors will be hired with $200 million in the budget; and $428 million—from Proposition 49, passed by voters in 2002—will be spent on expanding after-school programs in elementary and middle schools.
Gov. Schwarzenegger’s budget also included $75.1 million for supplemental instruction for students who have failed the state’s high school exit exam. Recently, opponents of the exam have challenged its fairness in court, but a state appeals court rejected their arguments. The funds will be used for hiring additional teachers, as well as for diagnostic testing that could better pinpoint where students are having the most trouble.
Vol. 26, Issue 10, Page 22