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Seeking Diversity in Washington State's Faculty Ranks

The American Federation of Teachers of Washington is holding an event on racial equity at Renton Technical College on Saturday. (pixabay)
The American Federation of Teachers of Washington is holding an event on racial equity at Renton Technical College on Saturday. (pixabay)
May 13, 2016

SEATTLE - As movements such as Black Lives Matter have gained steam, a major topic of discussion is racial equity in public institutions.

On Saturday, and with the help of a poetry reading from a Black Lives Matter organizer at lunchtime, the American Federation of Teachers of Washington will address this issue in the state's schools at an event at Renton Technical College.

President of AFT Washington Karen Strickland says decades of defunding the community college system has affected students of color.

"More than 40 percent of students at community and technical colleges are students of color, much higher rates than in the four-year system," Stickland says. "So the more these colleges are defunded and not invested in, the more disproportionate the impact is on communities of color."

Strickland says funding for community colleges shrank by more than seven percent over the last seven years. Faculties at community colleges are largely under-representative of the minority communities they teach.

Only about seven percent of full-time and 12-percent of part-time faculty members are not white.

The AFT represents a wide swath of education employees, from early learning child-care providers to college faculty members.

Strickland says that puts her organization on the front line of diversifying the educational institution. She says the institution has characteristics that enable it both to promote and hinder racial equity in schools.

Those qualities are part of the AFT as well.

"We also have to look at our own organization in terms of how we could either perpetuate racism and other 'isms,' or we can push back against that and change or own institution to make sure that we're promoting racial equity," Strickland says.

The event on Saturday will also include workshops on student loan forgiveness and social justice organizing on college campuses.

For a full listing of sessions, go to

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA