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Worthy Grant for Education

October 27, 2002

One sure way to ease the shortage of teachers would be to bless educators with a hefty increase in pay and prestige. Absent that unlikely development, school districts and the institutions that train tomorrow's educators must develop creative programs that will pull needed teachers into elementary and secondary school classrooms.

The Santa Clara Unified School District had the smart idea of using low-cost housing as bait. The median price of a new home in Santa Clara has soared to $575,000, so the district is investing $7 million in an apartment building that will provide living space for a handful of lucky teachers.

Closer to home, Cal State Long Beach has applied for a five-year, $1.25-million federal grant to identify, recruit and help train Vietnamese immigrants who taught school before moving to the U.S. This potential source of experienced educators who lack California teaching credentials would help to ease a critical teacher shortage in Westminster and Garden Grove, both home to large Vietnamese American populations.

The federal government has been talking tough about the growing shortage of credentialed teachers in California classrooms, and here's a chance for Uncle Sam to help bridge the gap. The grant would allow the Vietnamese American Teacher Preparation Project to funnel as many as 80 additional teachers a year into classrooms.

The program would focus on proven teachers, so it won't add to the parade of recent school of education graduates and older professionals who are changing careers. These immigrants might not make an immediate return to the classroom, but with encouragement they could more quickly navigate the credential process. Cal State Long Beach reports that many of these potential teachers already are working as community liaisons, interpreters and volunteer support staff at school. Some have even been working as bilingual teachers' aides.

In addition to pushing more teachers into classrooms, the proposed program would help Garden Grove and Westminster to assemble a cadre of teachers that more closely resembles their student populations.

The California Teachers Assn. reports that about 80% of California's teachers are white--a telling statistic given California's increasingly diverse ethnic mix. Previous grants have been used to recruit members of other minority groups, including Latinos and African Americans, to serve as teachers. Given the pressing need for teachers, this deserving project merits immediate funding.

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