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Lobbying Group Seeks Way To Attract More Minority Teachers

Josh Kaufmann
Josh Kaufmann

CHICAGO - A group that trains teachers to be policy advocates is pushing Springfield for ways to encourage more minorities to enter the profession.

Josh Kaufmann, Illinois Director for Teach Plus, told GLT's Sound Ideas teachers are most needed in rural, lower-income districts, and in certain disciplines, such as special education, English language learning and high school science and math.

Teach Plus wants the state to forgive college loans for prospective teachers who are willing to take those jobs.

“I think we could target incentives around those particular shortage areas and not sort of blow up our budget and try to impact all teachers around the state,” Kaufmann said.

He noted one in six teachers in Illinois are minorities, even though minorities, collectively, make up a majority of the student population.

“It’s because, for the most part, teachers of color gravitate toward the highest need schools, and these are schools that are typically underfunded and with students that have lots of additional needs.

“Those are situations that are harder to teach in.”

Kaufmann also recommends scholarships for students from school prep programs that serve predominantly minority students. He also wants the state to make it easier for teachers to get certified to teach in other subject areas.

While many teachers may feel uneasy about devoting the time to train as an unofficial lobbyist given the increased responsibilities they may face in the classroom, Kaufmann said many teachers simply want to make sure their voices are heard.

“There are a lot of teachers we talk to who recognize there are problems in the system and don’t feel they have a voice to change them.

“If they are given the opportunity to weigh in on these issues they are really eager to do so.”

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.