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Could Investing in HBCUs Be the Key to Getting More Black Teachers in the Classroom?

Black teachersThe benefits of having more Black teachers available to Black students have been thoroughly noted and repeatedly discussed, yet the vast majority of America’s teachers are white females.

As the country’s student body continues to diversify, it seems as if the collection of educators available for these students isn’t reflecting that change.

It’s a conversation that has been hashed out by local, national and even international publications.

But what exactly is it that needs to be done in order to boost the number of Black teachers?

While a plethora of suggestions have surfaced in the midst of this growing dialogue, Leslie T. Fenwick, dean of the Howard University School of Education and former visiting scholar at Howard University, suggests that the country is overlooking one course of action that could make a drastic difference.

Invest in more historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs).

Fenwick explains that most of today’s schoolchildren are Black and Hispanic, trying to find guidance in an environment that still caters specifically to their white counterparts.

But HBCUs and HSIs have a history of producing the largest quantities of Black and Hispanic teachers that go on to teach in “high-minority” and “low-income” school districts although they still tout an impressive list of skills and credentials.

“Though they comprise 3 percent of the nation’s colleges/universities, HBCUs prepare half of the nation’s African-American teachers,” she writes in the Washington Post. “More than any of their peers, novice black teachers report a desire to serve in urban schools and, unlike white teachers, remain in those schools as the minority student population increases…Even still, too many students of color and poor students languish in schools that have high concentrations of non-certified and under-prepared teachers and a revolving door of novice principals.”

Helping HBCUs support more students aspiring to be teachers could very well open a floodgate of Black educators who can finally give students in low-income and predominantly Black communities the quality education they deserve.

As the financial support and overall reputation of HBCUs has been sent into a downward spiral, however, it has been increasingly more difficult to see the wave of Black college-educated teachers joining the force that would be expected at a time like this.

While many HBCUs are actually private universities, a vast collection of public HBCUs have actually been taking on unnecessary financial burdens due to a biased and dishonest system.

A report released back in February by the Association of Public and Land Grand Universities (APLU) found that several states with public HBCUs had actually been withholding roughly $60 million total in funding that was meant to go to the HBCUs.

“Between 2010 and 2012, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Virginia, Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Florida and Delaware reportedly did not allocate proper funds to some of the minority institutions within their state,” Black Enterprise reported. “Under the Morrill Act of 1890, which established 18 black land-grant universities, the federal government committed to providing financial support to these institutions as long as the state matched that support. While the United States Department of Agriculture continues to provide federal funding to land-grant institutions, APLU’s report finds disparities in states matching funds for land-grant HBCUs versus predominantly white colleges and universities.”

While the HBCUs were given more than $244 million from the USDA the states only matched the funding up to $188 million, leaving the schools with the responsibility to come up with a combined $57 million.

Congressional mandate does not punish states for not matching the full amount of funding given to HBCUs but it does place the burden on the schools to come up with the rest of the funding that wasn’t provided even though more than 50 percent of the country’s HBCU Land Grant schools have applied to be waived of this requirement.

Without the proper financial backing, it’s harder for HBCUs to stay afloat and harder to convince students to attend when the future of the university, and its accreditation, is uncertain.

This is ultimately putting a great hindrance on what could be powerhouse producers of soon-to-be Black educators who could eventually help close America’s educational achievement gap.

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