Flurry of bills take on teacher housing and STEM access

Alisha Kirby, K-12 Daily   ·   Link to Article


(Calif.) The fate of bills to fund teacher housing initiatives, universal preschool and educator preparation in science, technology, engineering and math will be up for discussion in the state’s lower house Wednesday.

Among the other bills slated for debate at tomorrow’s Assembly Education Committee hearing, one would expand dual enrollment partnerships between community colleges and charter schools, and a separate bill would do the same for private schools.

AB 2788, authored by Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond, seeks to create a program to provide financial assistance to school districts to help fund the development of housing for school employees, including teachers, that would allow them to live in the communities in which they teach.

“California is facing a teacher shortage which is exacerbated by the lack of affordable housing,” Thurmond said in a statement. “I want to ensure that teachers and school employees can live in the communities where they work.”

Providing affordable housing for teachers has proven difficult throughout the country.

A handful of states have begun providing financial assistance to teachers looking for homes in the neighborhoods closer to their schools, but some districts have come up with their own solutions. Last year, a district in Colorado began exploring the idea of developing tiny houses for teachers, while St. Louis Public Schools is converting an abandoned elementary school into affordable housing for faculty.

Under Thurmond’s bill, the Department of Housing and Community Development would administer the California School Employee Housing Assistance Program–through which district employees could receive down payment assistance to purchase a single-family home in their district. A pre-development grant and loan program would be available to developers that partner with qualified school districts to design, construct, finance and operate a housing development for school employees.

Another Thurmond bill on the committee’s agenda–AB 2186–seeks to create a $200 million grant fund for STEM education programs. Specifically, the bill would provide one-time competitive grants to local educational agencies to implement new, or expand existing, strategies that address need for teachers of STEM subjects.

In an effort to target the gap in STEM access in rural parts of the state, the bill would also establish the STEM Education for Rural Schools Grants Program. One-time competitive grants would be provided to rural LEAs to deliver professional development for STEM teachers and school leaders to develop high-quality, standards-based STEM coursework for students.

A third bill on the committee’s agenda–AB 1754, authored by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento–aims to make high-quality early childhood education programs accessible for all 4-year-olds in California.

Research has shown that participation in high-quality preschool programs can have positive short- and long-term effects on academic achievement, and can reduce the likelihood of coming into contact with the juvenile justice system.

Although the state provides free pre-K educational services to families earning up to $50,000 per year, it covers about 170,000 children. McCarty estimated that there are another 40,000 low-income children who don’t have access to the same services. His new bill targets those kids still outside the current program’s limits.

Another bill being considered, AB 2891, would authorize the governing body of a charter school to enter into a College and Career Access Pathways partnership with a community college district to develop pathways that allow students to take college-level courses while in high school.

AB 2575 would authorize the governing bodies of private schools to do the same–giving students a jump start on earning credits toward a degree or industry certificate.