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Reps. Gallego, Hayes, Adams, and Houlahan lead call to Invest in and Diversify the Educator Workforce

July 2, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC - Today, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), along with Reps. Jahana Hayes (D-CT), Alma Adams (D-NC), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) and 18 other Members of Congress, sent a letter to Senate and House leadership calling on them to enact spending legislation that reflects President Biden’s proposed $9 billion to train, equip and diversify the American educator workforce.

The U.S. education system is facing a teacher shortage and teacher diversity crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this crisis, with polls showing that teachers of color in particular are more likely to retire early or leave the profession because of the pandemic. Even before the pandemic, studies showed that completion of teacher prep programs fell by one-third between 2010 and 2018 and that while over half of all students in the U.S. are non-white, only 20 percent of our teacher workforce is made up of people of color.

The letter urges the Appropriations Committee to begin to address these crises by investing $9 billion to address teacher shortages, improve teacher preparation, strengthen pipelines for teachers of color, invest in educator leadership, and help current teachers earn in-demand credentials. Many of the letter’s proposals are also included in President Biden’s American Families Plan.

“Our teachers and students have faced an incredibly difficult year due to pandemic. As teachers, especially teachers of color, have left or consider leaving the workforce, the education system needs a substantial investment in teacher preparation, diversity, and retention. The investments outlined in the American Families Plan, including my proposed Teacher Diversity and Retention Act, will relieve and strengthen our American education system, and help ensure every student has access to a high quality education.” said Rep. Ruben Gallego (AZ-07). "I am proud to advocate for teachers and aspiring teachers to receive the support they need and to increasingly become a workforce that reflects the diversity of the students they serve.”

"Our nation is in the middle of a teacher shortage – one that is especially prevalent for educators of color. This legislation supports the increase of a diverse workforce by equipping educators with the tools required to recover from the pandemic, improve classroom environments, mitigate teacher shortages by improving the educator pipeline and curb retention issues by developing better career advancement opportunities to leadership. It is important to prioritize education as we move forward. This is an important step forward toward diversity and retention in the education workforce," said Congresswoman Hayes (CT-05).

“Research has shown conclusively that Black students who have just one black teacher are more likely to enroll in college,” said Congresswoman Adams (NC-12). “Hiring and retaining diverse educators in America’s workforce ensures that the coming generations of students will see themselves reflected in the people who will shape them. I’m happy to join this effort to facilitate a more diverse teaching workforce that will help our students see more opportunities and possibilities.”

“Our teachers and students have had an unprecedentedly difficult past 15 months,” said Congresswoman Houlahan (PA-06). “We have a responsibility, now more than ever, to invest in our country’s future, which means investing in teachers and our kids’ education. That’s why I’m proud to join Representatives Gallego, Hayes and Adams in this effort to invest in teacher preparation, diversity and retention. As someone who taught high school chemistry, I know the profound sacrifices our teachers make to provide our children with the best education possible. I also know how important it is for our students to see themselves reflected in their teachers, which is why I believe a more diverse teaching talent pool is so necessary. You can’t be what you can’t see. It’s time every student be able to see themselves in the people who instruct, nurture and teach them. Our education system, communities and country will be all the better for it.”

Teach Plus CEO and President Roberto J. Rodríguez said: “We applaud Congressman Gallego and Congresswomen Hayes, Adams and Houlahan for taking up President Biden’s charge to prepare, support and invest in a diverse and talented teaching workforce.  The American Families Plan is a game changer for the future of teaching and the teaching profession. There has never been a more important time to make these investments – our children’s future depends on it.”

The NEA applauds Reps. Gallego, Hayes, Adams, and Houlahan for leading this important letter to acknowledge the historic funding proposed by the American Families Plan to advance the educator workforce,” said Marc Egan, NEA Director of Government of Relations. “For years, the educator profession has faced serious challenges of attrition, only to be hampered further by the COVID-19 pandemic. Implementing President Biden’s proposal to uplift the educator pipeline would demonstrate Congress’s commitment towards retaining profession-ready teachers, and recruiting a diverse educator workforce that accurately reflects the students they serve.”

"As an organization that advocates for funding for Hispanic-Serving Institutions, we support this legislation that invests in existing programs to further strengthen teacher diversity efforts," said HACU President and CEO Antonio R. Flores. “Hispanic students account for 27 percent of elementary and secondary U.S. public school students, yet only 9 percent of teachers are Hispanic.  Strengthening the pipeline and increasing recruitment and retention of diverse teachers at HSIs and MSIs is crucial.” 

“For too long, our federal government has failed to afford every student in America a quality education regardless of their zip code,” said Khalilah Harris, Team Managing Director for the Center for American Progress. “Prioritizing our students and the adults who develop them is a critical component of the American Families Plan that Congress must commit to, and a pivotal step towards addressing decades of racial and economic injustice.”

Roxanne Garza, Senior Policy Advisor, Education at UnidosUS said: “Latino students, English learners, and other underserved student populations have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. One way to ensure that students have the best chance for learning recovery is to make certain that they have access to qualified teachers that reflect their racial, cultural, and linguistic background. We strongly support funding provisions in the American Families Plan to recruit, prepare, and retain a more diverse teacher workforce through the FY2022 appropriations process.”

This letter has been endorsed by Teach Plus, National Education Association, Center for American Progress, UnidosUS, Teach for America, National Center for Learning Disabilities, Education Trust, New America, TNTP, and Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities.

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