Education policy in Connecticut can sometimes be contentious, but there is no debate about the life changing impact a high-quality education can have on the life of a child, especially for low-income and minority students eager to break the cycle of poverty. Everyone in Connecticut can agree that all children, no matter the color of their skin or economic status of their family, deserve a great education.

The delivery of a world-class education for our kids is critically dependent on the recruitment and retention of great teachers and administrators who are passionate about education and possess the ability to identify with the social and cultural challenges of their students.

That is why, as the chairman of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, I strongly support Senate Bill 1098 and House Bill 7021, two bills designed to improve minority teacher recruitment and retention, and to better implement cultural competency instruction in the classroom.

Connecticut has made real progress improving education for all of our children in recent years, and passing this legislation will continue to move our state forward. This bill was crafted to address Connecticut’s struggle to recruit and retain high quality teachers from diverse backgrounds.

SB 1098 takes critical steps towards improvement by encouraging Alliance Districts to use their additional funding to develop strategies that attract minority candidates, while also providing for cultural competency training so our teachers develop the skills, knowledge and behaviors necessary for building positive relationships with their students.

Building an effective and diverse teaching force starts with being proactive and recruiting more minority candidates into teacher preparation programs. As crafted, House Bill 7021 looks to do just that by requiring teacher preparation programs to report on their strategies to attract and recruit candidates of diverse backgrounds and experiences, as well as require programs to report on the diversity of their candidates.

We know the many benefits of well-prepared, engaged and highly effective teachers and the impact they can have on the success of low-income and minority students. Research shows that students of color taught by teachers of color perform better on a variety of academic outcomes including school attendance and retention, standardized test scores, advanced level course enrollment, discipline rates, high school graduation and college enrollment.

Furthermore, teachers of color are more likely to teach and remain in urban and high poverty schools that have diversity in the teaching staff and leadership positions.

Unfortunately, even as the evidence of the benefits of teacher diversity grows, diversity in teacher and administrator staff is lacking in Connecticut and across the nation. Students of color make up 41 percent of Connecticut’s public school enrollment, yet over 92 percent of teachers and 87 percent of administrators and principals are white.

These numbers must change. I know that we can do more to recruit and retain a diverse core of great teachers ready to inspire our richly diverse population of students.

Both students and teachers benefit from having other teachers, administrators and role models in a school building who are prepared to meet their needs and who can relate to their own backgrounds.

The state Senate recently passed SB 1098 with unanimous bipartisan support. It is my fervent hope that S.B. 1098 and H.B. 7021 will be approved by both legislative chambers and sent to Gov. Dannel Malloy for his signature.

This legislation would make Connecticut a leader in recruiting and retaining a diverse and culturally aware pool of teachers ready to ensure that all of our children remain on a path to a bright future.

State Representative Bruce V. Morris (D-Norwalk) is chairman of the legislature’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus.

Leave a comment