Can Representation Be Taught In Public School Districts?
By Alexandra Bacchus
1 in 5 teachers leave the teaching profession in the first five years
More than half of Michigan school districts employ zero African American teachers
A diverse teacher workforce is needed across the country because it exposes students to representation and/or examples of diversity at an early age, in addition to a minority perspective. Since 1 in 5 teachers leave the profession in the first five years, it’s important to select the right learning environment for your child. When minority students struggle to see a reflection of themselves, especially those that are low-income it keeps them from finding a representative role model.
Why This Matters: If we look at the state of Michigan its student population is 18% black, but its public school teachers are only 6% black. They have seen a significant decline in teachers in recent years, leaving local districts scrambling to fill open positions with qualified educators. Along with this decline, the state is experiencing a disparity between the percentage of minority students and the percentage of minority teachers, leaving a representation gap that has several negative implications.
However, it is important to note the invisible tax placed on minority teachers who stay in the field because of the additional emotional investment they take on to support students whose hardships they identify with. Not to mention that black teachers typically graduate with more student debt then their counterparts.
This overall decline in new teachers entering the workforce, and the shrinking percentage of minority educators, is largely due to declining salaries and benefits. Glassdoor found the national average salary for a 6th Grade Teacher is $47,263 in U.S. and their benefits such as their health care deductibles rose at a higher rate than their take home pay. Many teachers, especially in STEM fields, left education for the private sector where hours are fewer and pay is higher.
Situational Awareness: While recruitment efforts to find more minority teachers is always needed, a lot more can be done to retain teachers after they commit to the profession. This starts by making sure they are compensated fairly for the energy they put into educating and developing their students, and ensuring that state budget reallocations do not come from funds intended for K-12 education.
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