State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond testified before the Senate Education Committee today in support of his bill to address the teacher shortage.
Senate Bill 765, authored by Senator Anthony Portantino, offers viable, comprehensive solutions to the current teacher shortage by making it easier for retired educators to return to the classroom while providing financial incentives to those who want to become teachers.
“Senate Bill 765 is a critical piece of legislation that will enable our schools to meet the immediate needs of students by allowing longtime, qualified educators back in the classroom and offering long-term solutions that include removing financial barriers to entering the profession to combat the California teacher shortage,” said State Superintendent Thurmond. “Teacher shortages are a growing national issue exacerbated by COVID-19, and California is no exception. Moving this bill forward is a huge step in the right direction to address one of the most pressing problems facing California public education.”
According to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, there were more than 10,000 teacher vacancies across California during the 2021–22 school year. SB 765 offers a much-needed solution to this crisis by allowing retired CalSTRS members to return to an education position in a more expeditious manner and with greater consistency. The bill removes the 180-day “sit-out” requirement, under certain circumstances, before a retiree can return to an education position and lifts the CalSTRS compensation cap on retirees’ earnings.
“California is facing a significant teacher shortage crisis, and it’s way past time we appropriately invest in our schools and teachers,” stated Senator Portantino. “This requires long-term solutions, including making it easier for retired teachers to come back to their teaching positions and making it easier for aspiring teachers to enter the workforce. Too many teachers are leaving the classroom, and we need to step up our efforts to ensure that this does not negatively affect the quality of education that our children deserve.”
Principal Joey Sundberg of Valley View Elementary School in the West Contra Costa Unified School District testified at today’s hearing.
“During my 20 years in education, I have never seen the high level of vacancies or absences I do now,” Sundberg said. “I sought to fill the vacancies with retired teachers who were willing to work, only to be told they were still in the 180-day waiting period or they had reached their earnings cap and could not step in. SB 765 will go a long way in removing the barriers to those who want to continue to serve and those who want to enter the profession as well.”
The bill requires local educational agencies to provide documentation for their need as well as the eligibility of a retired member before that retired member may begin their service. These provisions will enable local educational agencies to quickly and efficiently fill vacant positions with experienced and qualified educators, thereby ensuring that our students have access to the resources they need to thrive. The bill is consistent with previous efforts that provided greater flexibility for CalSTRS retired members to assist with pressing staffing shortages and that have proven to be effective tools in addressing these shortages in the past.
In addition, SB 765 expands the CTC Teacher Residency Grant to provide additional incentives for prospective teachers and waives the financial need requirement for 1,000 Cal Grant Awards to be given to students pursuing the teaching profession. These measures will help to bolster the teacher workforce in California and provide much-needed support to students.
The bill passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously and now moves to the Senate Labor, Public Employment, and Retirement Committee.
Advocacy by State Superintendent Thurmond to address the teacher shortage has helped secure a record $3.6 billion in investments over the last four years that are designed to improve educator recruitment, retention, and training in California. Thurmond launched the first-ever statewide campaign to support teacher recruitment and created a one-stop entry point for candidates to get information on becoming a California teacher and how to get a $20,000 scholarship. Anyone interested in learning how to become an educator in California can email TeachInCA@cde.ca.gov or visit the California Department of Education’s Become a Teacher web page.