NJEA Vice President Sean M. Spiller testified before the Senate Education and Senate Higher Education committees today on the importance of teacher diversity.

Acting on national and state statistics revealing a lack of diversity among teachers, NJEA has initiated supports, adopted policy, and studied the outline, actions, and goals of the Diverse and Learner-Ready Teacher Initiative instituted by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), which is designed to increase teacher diversity by 2025.

National studies identify New Jersey as lacking diversity in its educational workforce. The percentage of educators of color in New Jersey remains stagnant. Teacher diversity percentages increasingly lag behind the percentages of students of color in our public schools.

NJEA takes active role to increase educator diversity

NJEA has attended work sessions with the CCSSO in conjunction with the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE), and various institutions of higher education in an effort to increase racial diversity in the teacher workforce so that it is representative of all K-12 students in our state.

NJEA strives to ensure that all educators demonstrate culturally responsive and restorative practices by providing extensive professional development and workshop opportunities on those topics. Through the union’s Minority Leadership and Recruitment Committee, NJEA encourages members of color to become actively involved in all levels of Association work. It also identifies and recommends ways to attract people of color to school employee professions and develops and initiates training opportunities for school personnel.

In 2015, the NJEA Delegate Assembly adopted a resolution affirming its commitment to a diverse educator workforce. The resolution reads, “NJEA believes school districts, the NJDOE, and other state agencies should promote, achieve, and maintain ethnic diversity in all categories of educational employment and recognize that multiethnic teaching staffs are essential to the operation of schools. NJEA urges its local and county affiliates, NJDOE, and other state agencies to work to achieve this goal.”

Bills to establish a pilot program in the NJDOE to recruit minority men to teach in targeted schools through the alternate route program are moving through the Legislature. On Dec. 6, 2018, S-703 was referred to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. A-3141, an identical bill, was reported out of the Assembly Education Committee, with amendments, on the same day. NJEA supports the legislation but maintains that it must be expanded to comprehensively address the need for diversification of staff in all of New Jersey’s public schools. NJEA believes it is a step in the right direction but does not do enough to support the needs of the state’s diverse student population.

According to a 2017 analysis by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, New Jersey is already America’s sixth most segregated state for black students and the seventh most segregated for Latino students. All of New Jersey’s schools need a diverse teaching staff, not just urban districts.

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