We all know Minnesota has some of the worst opportunity and achievement gaps in the country and is woefully lacking in Teachers of Color and American Indian Teachers (TOCAITs).
These two problems are connected. TOCAITs only make up 4% of the licensed teaching staff in MN while students of color represent 35% of all students; the race gap between teachers and students is much wider in many schools.
As a member of that “talented 4%,” I am only too aware of the need for and the challenges to becoming a fully licensed TOCAIT. I began the process of becoming a licensed teacher in 2009, but I had taught in a variety of capacities outside of the official public school system for well over a decade.
I think this is the case for many would-be TOCAITs. For many of us, when we finally take the plunge to become fully licensed teachers, we are older than our White counterparts. There are reasons for that. For example, access to and understanding of the teacher preparation process, funding, licensure exam bias, institutionally racist school/work climate, etc.
Thankfully, the Coalition to Increase Teachers of Color and American Indian Teachers formed five years ago to address the main barriers for TOCAITs to enter and stay in the profession, which is now more than 1,500-people strong.
The Coalition has been working hard over the past half-decade to draft and pass legislation called the Increase Teachers of Color Act and it deserves all our support.
The TOCAIT legislation we wrote, seeks to attract and prepare TOCAITs, increase teaching program completion, and retain TOCAITs so their percentage increases every year until all students have equitable access to teachers who reflect their racial and ethnic diversity.
The MN Legislative Session has just begun and the Coalition is in the process of moving our legislation forward. We could use the community’s support to raise awareness about the Increase Teachers of Color Act, as we are a volunteer group of concerned educators, students, parents, and community members. For more info, go to www.tocaimn.com. Thank you in advance!
Remi Eichten is a second-grade teacher at L’Etoile du Nord Upper Campus and Core Steering Committee member of the Coalition to Increase Teachers of Color and American Indian Teachers.