California grants will help secretaries, cafeteria workers become teachers

Grant Slater/KPCC

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The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing has announced $20 million in grants to help 1,000 classified school workers across the state get their teaching credentials.

"When this grant opportunity came up it was pretty much a no brainer that this is what we should go after," said Judy Levinsohn, an administrator with the Orange County Department of Education. The department is one of 25 education agencies that successfully applied for the grants.

"We are definitely facing a serious teacher shortage and especially in the areas of special education, the science areas, bilingual education," Levinsohn said.

School classified workers include instructional aides, secretaries, bus drivers and cafeteria workers.

Individual grantees will get up to $4,000 a year for up to five years to finish teacher credential course work.

The grants help in two ways.

The money is available to people who have amassed some college credits toward their teaching credential but who’ve been held back because of costs.

The funds will also add people with experience working at schools into the teacher pipeline. These employees have some advantages over teachers who get their first job after college.

"When you’re working at a school site you really see what it’s like," said Levinsohn. "You’re experiencing a lot the demands that are placed on a teacher, and the politics and the culture of a district."

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing said the grants are designed to help ease the current teacher shortage.

California Teachers Association says the state will need 100,000 new teachers in the next decade. The shortage is due to retirements and the loss of younger teachers to layoffs during the recession.

Individuals interested in applying for a grant have until Jan. 31 to inform their schools. In Southern California, staff at schools in Orange, Los Angeles and Riverside counties are eligible.