Flurry of bills take on teacher housing and STEM access

(Calif.) The fate of bills to fund teacher housing initiatives, universal preschool and educator preparation in science, technology, engineering and math will be up for discussion in the state’s lower house Wednesday.

Among the other bills slated for debate at tomorrow’s Assembly Education Committee hearing, one would expand dual enrollment partnerships between community colleges and charter schools, and a separate bill would do the same for private schools.

AB 2788, authored by Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond, seeks to create a program to provide financial assistance to school districts to help fund the development of housing for school employees, including teachers, that would allow them to live in the communities in which they teach.

“California is facing a teacher shortage which is exacerbated by the lack of affordable housing,” Thurmond said in a statement. “I want to ensure that teachers and school employees can live in the communities where they work.”

Providing affordable housing for teachers has proven difficult throughout the country.

A handful of states have begun providing financial assistance to teachers looking for homes in the neighborhoods closer to their schools, but some districts have come up with their own solutions. Last year, a district in Colorado began exploring the idea of developing tiny houses for teachers, while St. Louis Public Schools is converting an abandoned elementary school into affordable housing for faculty.

Under Thurmond’s bill, the Department of Housing and Community Development would administer the California School Employee Housing Assistance Program–through which district employees could receive down payment assistance to purchase a single-family home in their district. A pre-development grant and loan program would be available to developers that partner with qualified school districts to design, construct, finance and operate a housing development for school employees.

Another Thurmond bill on the committee’s agenda–AB 2186–seeks to create a $200 million grant fund for STEM education programs. Specifically, the bill would provide one-time competitive grants to local educational agencies to implement new, or expand existing, strategies that address need for teachers of STEM subjects.

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