Cal State Long Beach has received an $11 million grant from the Ballmer Group to aid in the certification of early childhood teachers. The funds from the grant are set to go toward students pursuing pre-K through third-grade teaching credentials.
The grant is set to cover an estimated 290 students over a five-year period at about $27,000 per student. The amount given will depend on the individual student’s needs according to the Dean of the College of Education Anna Ortiz.
Ortiz said the grant is intended to make up any financial gaps in federal or state aid students are receiving.
“It’s helping us to recruit high-quality students, to become high-quality teachers, and to design a high-quality program that best prepares them to teach in our local schools,” Ortiz said.
Students who qualify are undergraduates who have committed to pursuing the pre-k through third-grade teaching credential. Students who have already received their bachelor’s degree and are in the process of obtaining their credential are also eligible.
“A lot of times students have difficulty in their student teaching semester in terms of they can’t work, because they’re in the classroom full time. And so then they have to take on more debt. This will help fill in some of those financial needs that our students have and it’ll provide an incentive for folks to come back and finish their bachelor’s degree,” Ortiz said.
Cal State Dominguez Hills also received a grant from the Ballmer Group in the amount of $22 million.
The Ballmer Group is a non-profit organization that operates nationwide but primarily focuses on Los Angeles County, Washington state and south-eastern Michigan. Founded by Connie and Steve Ballmer in 2015, their goal is to improve economic mobility and opportunity for families and children in the United States.
Ortiz said, with these two grants, the Ballmer Group wanted to invest specifically in the development of early childhood teachers in Los Angeles County.
In 2021, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation that aimed to enroll all Californian 4-year-old children in high-quality universal pre-K by 2025. This would be the largest universal child care program in the country.
“Just like all other teaching credentials, the California Commission on Credentialing wants qualified teachers in those classrooms,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz also spoke of the importance of early childhood education when it comes to literacy rates.
“I just think that with a greater focus on early literacy, we’re going to have teachers who are going to have a deeper knowledge of how that is different than literacy in general,” Ortiz said.
She added that this grant will enable more Long Beach State students to have both greater career opportunities and gain the chance to serve their community.