Democrats in the state Senate on Tuesday advanced measures meant to bolster diversity in New York's education workforce.
The bills backed by the conference call for expanded teacher training for bilingual educators, as well as new efforts to recruit and retain teachers from diverse backgrounds.
Lawmakers pointed to the potential of improving outcomes for students if the measures become law upon final passage.
“Many of us have an educator to thank for where we are in life, and many of us saw the possibilities on our horizons thanks to an educator who looked like us,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “Having representation from an early age not only serves as important role modeling but also greatly improves classroom connectivity and learning outcomes."
The bills include a measure designed to allow school districts and higher education officials to attract underrepresented teaching candidates through a "grow your own initiative."
Another bill would create a task force on educator diversity. Lawmakers also want to establish a program designed to attract teachers from underrepresented backgrounds, and provide awards designed to attract and retain them.
And lawmakers are calling for the state education commissioner to convene statewide and regional conventions to bring together underrepresented teachers and discuss experiences and best practices.
“New York has a teacher diversity problem. Teachers from underrepresented racial or ethnic groups can feel isolated, making it challenging to do their job well," said Sen. Robert Jackson. "The percentage of educators of color has been stubbornly stagnant even as a growing body of research shows a diverse teacher workforce positively affects the entire student body. This disparity puts a burden on those teachers not only to support students of color who look to them as leaders and role models, but it also can leave them feeling unsupported among colleagues.”