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Group Presses Congress to Fund Program for Diversity in Teaching

Legislation now stuck in Congress would fund teacher training programs and offer financial aid for future teachers of color, to help diversify the workforce in education. (Adobe Stock)
Legislation now stuck in Congress would fund teacher training programs and offer financial aid for future teachers of color, to help diversify the workforce in education. (Adobe Stock)
September 28, 2020

RICHMOND, Va. -- As protests against systemic racism continue across the country, a group of educators and officials is urging Congress to pass a bill to bring more diversity into the teaching workforce.

The Augustus Hawkins grant program supports educator training at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Desiree Carver-Thomas, a researcher with the Learning Policy Institute, said it's time to boost the number of Black and Brown teachers in across the country.

She pointed to research on implicit bias showing when young people have interactions with people from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds, they are less likely to be biased as adults.

"So, you know, when we compare the 50% students of color to 20% teachers of color, it's important to emphasize that we don't just want teachers of color for students of color, but really a diverse teacher workforce for all of our students," Carver-Thomas said.

Virginia's student population is almost 50% nonwhite, but only 21% of the state's teachers are Black or Brown, according to a Virginia Department of Education report.

The bill before Congress asks for $40 million to launch the program. It's been about a year since it was introduced in the U.S. House.

Carver-Thomas emphasized the timeliness of increasing the number of teachers of color in the nation, and said there's data to show, for instance, that Black students can do better in school when they have Black teachers.

"There's studies of Tennessee test data that have found that Black elementary students with Black teachers had higher reading and math test scores than their peers," she said. "And these gains actually accumulated with each year that students had a Black teacher."

Virginia is home to five HBCUs, including Hampton University. And four of those five institutions offer education programs that would benefit from funding the Augustus Hawkins grant program legislation.

Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.

Diane Bernard, Public News Service - VA