A California bill proposes that student teachers get paid for the mandatory hours they need to work to obtain a teaching credential.

Currently, California teachers need to complete 600 hours of unpaid student teaching to earn their credentials, according to California’s Commission on Teaching Credentials. The requirement has been considered a roadblock for teacher candidates who can’t afford to work for free while still being responsible for paying school and living expenses, such as tuition, books and housing.

The bill, officially known as Assembly Bill 238, was introduced by Assemblymember Al Maratsuchi, D-Torrance and would approve using one-time state funding to create a grant program for student teachers.

School districts that have access to the grants would then pay student teachers the same rate as substitute teachers, according to the bill’s text. An analysis estimated that the program would cost the state $300 million annually should all student teachers benefit from the program, Edsource reported.

The state’s ongoing educator and workforce shortage has only increased as a result of the pandemic,” Maratsuchi said in a statement to the publication.

“AB 238 helps relieve the teacher shortage by establishing the California Student Teacher Support Grant Program, which compensates student teachers during their required student teaching hours to help alleviate financial stress at an important time in the teacher preparation process.”

The bill has passed the state assembly but was placed in the suspense files by the Senate Appropriations Committee, EdSource reported. Since the bill has an annual price tag of $300 million, senators placed it in the suspense file so they could weigh the impact it would have on the state budget before it’s voted on.

The bill would also need to be signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom before it’s officially implemented.