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A Formula for More Math Teachers

The governor aims to double the number of newly credentialed math and science grads by 2010. Critics say funding is inadequate.

June 01, 2005|Seema Mehta | Times Staff Writer

The number of credentialed math and science teachers graduating annually from the state's public universities would more than double by 2010 under a plan unveiled Tuesday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The plan, aimed at raising dismal student test scores, would allow an aspiring teacher to earn a bachelor's degree and prepare for board certification in four years instead of five to six, create paid internships and forgive $19,000 in college loans in exchange for four years of teaching service.

The program would be funded by $1 million earmarked by Schwarzenegger in his 2005-06 budget proposal, as well as corporate pledges of $4 million over five years.

"The California of tomorrow will be shaped by what we do in the classrooms today," Schwarzenegger said at a news conference at UC Irvine.

According to a National Science Foundation report released in 2004, California eighth-graders tested last in the nation in science, and seventh from the bottom in math. At the same time, hundreds of high school math and science classes statewide are taught by instructors without a teaching credential.

"This is not good enough for our children, and is definitely not good enough for our economy," Schwarzenegger said.

Robert C. Dynes, president of the University of California, added: "Science and math are critical gateway skills in the global knowledge-based economy."

Under the "California Teach" program, the UC system would quadruple the number of credentialed science and math teacher graduates to 1,000 per year by 2010. Students would receive classroom experience starting their freshman year and a yearlong paid internship upon graduation.

The California State University system, which produces 60% of the state's teachers, will double its turnout of credentialed math and science teachers to 1,500 per year by 2010, and expand its four-year program from three campuses to 22. The system also plans to expand recruitment.

"It's critical that our schools provide training and development for students so they can compete on a worldwide scale," said Brenda Musilli, director of education for Intel Corp., before presenting a $2-million check to university leaders Tuesday. "Failure is not an option when it comes to educating young people and to keeping California competitive and growing."

But state Democrats said that the funding for Schwarzenegger's plan was a pittance compared with the $28.1 million in cuts that the governor has proposed for the UC and Cal State systems' current $14.4-billion budget.

"I can understand the goal, but the way we look at it, cutting $28.1 million [from university budgets] doesn't jibe with spending $1 million on another program," said Gabriel N. Sanchez, spokesman for Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles).

Scores of noisy protesters outside the Irvine gathering Tuesday said schools would be better served if Schwarzenegger gave them an additional $2 billion they believed was owed education under Proposition 98, a voter-approved funding guarantee.

"He has to fully fund our schools, like he said he would," said Chris Roa, 21, a UC Irvine political science major.

Barbara Dresel, 57, an elementary school teacher for more than two decades who now works for the California Teachers Assn., said the state would be better off spending money to ease overcrowding in classrooms.

"If we had enough money, individuals would be attracted to the profession," said the Anaheim resident. "We need to raise the level of the working conditions, so we attract the best and the brightest."

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