Keeping Black Teachers in the Classroom Will Take More Than a Pay Raise

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Ways to Support ABHM?

By Elizabeth D. Steiner, Ashley Woo and Sy Doan, Word in Black

Yes, low salaries are a stressor, but Black educators are also dealing with racial discrimination and depression.

Low pay and lack of resources are among the reasons Black educators struggle despite caring about students (nappy/Pexels0

The U.S. teaching workforce is far less racially diverse than its student body. All students — but particularly Black and Latinx students — benefit academically and socially from having teachers who are people of color. And yet, such educators leave the profession at higher rates than their white colleagues.

So what can be done to get more teachers of color into the classroom and help them stay? 

Our State of the American Teacher Project investigated these questions. Our study included interviews with 40 teachers of color and a survey of nationally representative samples of teachers of color as a group and Black or African American and Hispanic teachers specifically. It is, to our knowledge, the first nationwide survey to document the experiences of people of color in education.

We found, first, that the costs of becoming a teacher and staying in the profession are substantial. Or, as one Black teacher put it: “The money is a big part of it — teachers don’t get paid.” 

The teachers of color we surveyed endorsed raising salaries as the most popular policy to attract and retain teachers like them. Additionally, Black teachers were more likely to say that low salaries were a job-related stressor than teachers of other races or ethnicities, possibly because carrying student debt is more common for Black students than their white counterparts. That, in turn, could make teaching — with its relatively lower salaries — less attractive than other professions. 

Strategies to lower the educational and credentialing expenses of becoming a teacher could also have disproportionate benefits for diversifying the education workforce. Student loan forgiveness was the next most popular idea among teachers of color, so state policymakers could ensure that loan forgiveness and scholarship programs offer enough financial relief to make them attractive. They might also provide compensation for student teaching. Teacher preparation programs could provide scholarships, stipends, or other forms of debt-free financial support. 

Word in Black has more results from the survey.

These struggles are portrayed in the sitcom Abbott Elementary, which recently made history.

Get more Black news stories.

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