Brown calls for new fees on teacher preparation review

Brown calls for new fees on teacher preparation review

(Calif.) Still struggling to find a fiscal footing in the wake of the recession, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing would be granted additional authority to impose fees on educator preparation programs under a proposal from the Brown administration.

The agency, which serves as the state’s standards board for teacher certification and professional conduct, is one of the few departments that do not receive any support from the state’s general fund. Instead all of its revenue comes from fees paid by teachers and teaching candidates for credentialing activities.

But as licensing renewal and new applicant numbers have dropped during the past six years, so have revenues – the CTC has been forced to trim its operating budget by 75 percent since 2007.

Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed giving the agency authority to spend $20.4 million next year – an increase of about $650,000 over 2013-14 – but a big part of that money will materialize only if lawmakers and the governor agree on a new plan to charge teacher preparation programs for oversight services.

“While year-to-date application volume is up slightly over last year, the Governor’s Budget assumes zero growth in credential revenue for FY 2014-15, and there is nothing to suggest that any growth that might occur would be sufficient to offset expected increases in nondiscretionary costs, much less enable the Commission to resume important activities that have been suspended or rebuild depleted reserves,” Beth Graybill, the CTC’s fiscal deputy director, said in a memo to the board.

The CTC is charged with ensuring that teachers and principals receive proper training and maintain licensing status; it also serves as the chief enforcement agency for professional practices and the discipline.

Its primary source of revenue is credentialing fees, the volume of which has fallen by a quarter since 2007-08 as school districts hit hard by the recession laid off thousands of teachers over a five year period. Although better economic conditions have allowed most districts to rebound, the job outlook for new educators remains gloomy as does the budget outlook at the CTC.

The Legislature last year authorized the commission to hike the annual fee for renewing a teaching credential from $55 to $70 – but revenues continued to decline simply because participation in the exam process also fell.

The board is also set to, for the first time, charge universities and other teacher preparation institutions for CTC accreditation services – a program anticipated to bring in at least $200,000 annually once fully operational.

The new fee schedule, finalized by the commission in December, calls for a variety of charges that teacher preparation programs will have to pay in order to receive accreditation from the CTC. Ranging from $2,000 for an initial institutional approval to $500 for review of documents filed after deadline, most of the fees are considered “extraordinary” services, according to the staff report.

Under the governor’s budget plan, the CTC will be expected to raise the same $200,000 from those extraordinary service fees next year. What remains unclear is exactly what activities the commission will be charging teacher preparation programs to cover an additional $650,000 that the Brown administration wants to raise by imposing a separate set of fees.

Proposed trailer bill language simply provides for the commission to “charge a fee to cover the standard costs of reviewing new and existing educator preparation programs.” No further details have been worked out and there is no clear signal as to when additional information will be made available.

The CTC is scheduled to talk about the governor’s budget plan at its February meeting next week. more