Ashley Garland works with preschoolers at Edward Kemble Elementary School in Sacramento before the coronavirus pandemic. Garland is in a state program that turns classified school workers into teachers. (Photo by AnneMarie Flores, via EdSource)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s biggest education priority in his proposed state budget — $915 million to recruit and train teachers — was eliminated in his May budget revision released Thursday.

The proposed funds are more than the amount spent for teacher development in the five previous years combined, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

Now, the grants have become collateral damage as state finances rapidly decline during the coronavirus pandemic that has caused thousands of businesses to temporarily close and millions of residents to lose their jobs.

“The governor’s May revise proposed budget reflects the unfortunate reality our state is facing — a $54 billion deficit over a two-year period due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento. “This revised budget proposal aims to safeguard essential government programs such as education — from early learning to K-12 schools to higher education. Over the next few weeks, the Legislature will partner with the administration to fine tune this proposal to protect essential public services.”

McCarty, who authored the bill that created the California Classified Employee Teacher Credentialing Program, said he was disappointed that funds for that program and other teacher recruitment and professional development programs had to be cut. “We have a higher need right now, which is funding our schools,” he said.

Last November the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing reported that the classified employee teacher credentialing program, which helps classified school employees — generally teachers’ aides, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and clerks — to become teachers, had more than 2,200 participants and had created 299 new California teachers.

Although most of the nearly $1 billion that was proposed was to extend existing grant programs, more than $300 million would have created entirely new programs.

Here are the programs that lost funding in Newsom’s proposed 2020-21 budget:

  • The California Teacher Credential Award program, $100 million: The program provides $5,000 a year for four years to fully credentialed teachers who teach subjects or work in schools where there is a teacher shortage.
  • Workforce Development Grant Program, $193 million: The funds would have established a four-year program to help school districts recruit staff for counseling, speech therapy, mental and physical health services, clinical and rehabilitative services, social services and librarian media services.
  • Computer Science Supplementary Authorization Incentive, $15 million: The proposed four-year program would have offered $1,500 to K-12 teachers to cover the cost of coursework, books, fees and tuition to earn a supplementary authorization to teach computer science.
  • Teacher Residency Program, $175 million: The program offers teacher candidates $20,000 grants while enrolled in a residency program, which typically includes a full school year of working with students in the classroom under the supervision of a teacher mentor and supervisor.
  • California Classified Employee Teacher Credentialing Program, $64.1 million: The program, which started in 2016, offers competitive grants to help classified school employees earn a bachelor’s degree and teaching credential.
  • California Collaborative for Educational Excellence, $18 million: The state agency would have used the money to bolster staffing. It offers technical assistance, professional learning networks and resources to teachers and school districts.
  • Educator Workforce Investment Grant, $350 million: The funds were targeted for professional development for teachers in how to provide mental health interventions and supports; how to foster social emotional learning and restorative justice; support to English language learners; instruction in special education; and instruction in science, technology, engineering and math.

The elimination of these teacher development grants comes as the state enters another year of 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 has been a record number of teachers in classrooms who have not completed teaching preparation programs or have received only partial training.

The state has also pulled back some funding approved in the 2019-20 budget, including grants to train teachers in computer science, how to foster a positive school climate, social emotional learning and restorative justice as part of the Educator Workforce Investment Program.

“We still have a critical need in our teacher workforce and some of the programs, like the classified employee program, were proven to be successful,” McCarty said. “I’m confident we will continue to look at these programs.”

Story originally published by EdSource.