New York City’s Plan To Add Diversity to Teaching Ranks

In January 2015, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a program to hire 1,000 male black, Latino and Asian teachers by 2017 to have the teaching force more closely resemble that of the student body in New York City public schools.

This $16.5 million initiative seeks to boost the current number of male teachers from these groups, as it currently represents only 8 percent of the 76,000 teachers in the public school system.

The problem of diversity in education is a multi-faceted one, as there is a dearth of male teachers to begin with, compounded further by the lack of ethnic groups represented these male teachers. The New York City public school system has approximately 43 percent students from these three groups and research has shown that black teachers working with black students and Hispanic teachers working with Hispanic students do better academically. That same research showed teachers of color also can serve as role models for minority students, as they often come from socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods and backgrounds.

Previous findings have shown that the number of cities including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and others have all experienced declines in the number of black teachers employed in the last 10 years.

Nationally, only 2 percent of the entire teaching workforce is comprised of black male teachers, which, considering the benefits of students working with someone who reflects their own background, Mayor de Blasio’s effort seems like a positive step toward ameliorating this issue. But is it enough?

Assuming the other number of teachers remains static, a 1,000 teacher increase would bump the total percentage of black, Latino and Asian teachers up to a shade under 10 percent.

Another problem with finding male teachers from these groups is the precipitous decrease in wages for public school teachers. From 2003-04 to 2013-14, the average public school teacher’s salary has decreased 3.5 percent with 34 states seeing declines in wages after adjusting for inflation.

However, from 2003-04 to 2013-14, average salaries for New York state public school teachers increased 9.9 percent—the second highest increase in the country—according to the National Education Association. Furthermore, public school teachers in New York state command the highest average salary of $76,409, nearly $20,000 more than the nationwide average. With that being said, those numbers are skewed by the wealthy suburbs surrounding New York City and are not necessarily indicative of the salaries earned by New York City public school teachers.

If this program is successful, as the nationwide population of black, Latino and Asian students continues to increase, having a workforce of teachers that can keep up with those demographic shifts can help close the achievement gap that plagues these communities.

This achievement gap can be seen in the fact that 90 city schools failed to pass a single black or Hispanic student on state tests, according to the New York Daily News.

With a need for more public school teachers in general, particularly black, Latino and Asian male teachers to create positive role models and be a good mirror for a student body that increasingly looks more like them, Mayor de Blasio’s program could create a blueprint for future programs outside of New York City.

–Brian Weidy