New bill seeks added diversity among Minnesota teachers

As Minnesota becomes more diverse demographically, there are new efforts to make sure that is reflected at the front of kids’ classrooms.

Some state lawmakers are paving the way for more teachers of color through the Increase Teachers of Color Act. Rep. Hodan Hassan introduced the bill.

The legislation does not just seek to add Black teachers, but Native American teachers, too. The goal is to steadily increase the numbers of these teachers.

They say it’s critically important in education for students of color to be caught by teachers who not only look like them but understand their culture.

The act would establish equitable school enhancement grants to support equity hiring and set a goal that the number of teachers of color should increase by two percentage points each year.

It also requires the teacher licensing board to grant a tier three license to those who have come from teacher programs at a minority serving institutions and historically Black colleges.  

Many of the advocates for the bill during Wednesday’s hearing were students.

"We need teachers who understand firsthand different cultures and see our potential for all we have to offer the world," said Hawi Emeru, of Minneapolis South High School. "We need more role models in our schools who like us and speak our home languages."

ESL Teacher Angelica Torralba-Olague, of Minneapolis South High School, said some of her students said she was their first teacher of color.

"The impact that teachers of color have is profound across the board," said Torralba-Olague.

"I know that a 7-year-old me would have had a teacher of color to look up to, maybe she would have looked in the mirror and seen beauty, and maybe should have seen a future educator," said Yahanna Macbee, a Washburn High School student.

The bill is estimated to cost about $4 million to implement. While there was no vote Wednesday, some of the portions of the bill could end up in the final education package that lawmakers will vote on at the end of the session.