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MN2020 - Latino Teachers are Scarce in Minnesota
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Latino Teachers are Scarce in Minnesota

September 14, 2007 By John Fitzgerald, Education Policy Fellow

While Minnesota's Latino population is booming, Latino teachers are hard to find.

Between 2000 and 2005, the number of documented Minnesota Latinos jumped 29 percent to 4 percent of the state's population. Latino enrollment in some Minnesota schools is as much as 30 percent.

But those U.S. Census estimates aren't matched by the number of Latino teachers, especially in Greater Minnesota. While 30 percent of Minnesota Latinos live in Minneapolis or St. Paul, 42 percent of the state's Latino teachers work there. Of the total of 368 Latino teachers in Minnesota, 156 work in the St. Paul or Minneapolis districts, leaving 212 for the rest of the state.

Some examples:

Albert Lea

  • 2,025 Latinos in 2005
  • Latino share of school district population: 13.1 percent
  • Latino graduation rate: 51 percent
  • Latino teachers: none

Faribault

  • 4,261 Latinos
  • Latino share of school district population: 17.3 percent
  • Latino graduation rate: 48 percent
  • Latino teachers: one

Willmar

  • 3,531 Latinos
  • Latino share of school district population: 27.3 percent
  • Latino graduation rate: 53 percent
  • Latino teachers: one

Worthington

  • 2,998 Latinos
  • Latino share of school district population: 31.5 percent
  • Latino graduation rate: 63 percent
  • Latino teachers: none

And many of these figures may actually undercount the numbers of Latinos in Minnesota schools. When census questionnaires include other names for folks from Latin American backgrounds, the five-year increase among Latinos aged 5 to 14 has registered as high as 58.6 percent.


Oscar Echandi Chittenden, the community liaison for the state Chicano Latino Affairs Council, cited many reasons for the scarcity of Latino teachers.

"There's no incentive to go into education. For many Hispanics in Minnesota, their dream job is to be a mechanic. It pays more than being a teacher," he said.

Only 50 to 60 percent of Latinos who start high school in Minnesota get a diploma, despite the work of several programs across the state aimed at boosting the graduation rate. Experts note several difficulties:

  • Latinos from migrant families often fall behind as they move to different schools.
  • Many see school as an intrusion on their working day.
  • Older Latino students have a hard time with bilingual education.

Greg Anderson, the English language learning supervisor at the St. Paul Public Schools, makes a simple correlation between Latino high school graduation rates and the number of Latino teachers: "If they don't graduate, they don't go on to college."

Several organizations exists to assist Latino and other minority students enter college.

Between 2000 and 2006, only 198 Latinos were licensed as teachers in Minnesota. That increased the Latino presence in the state's teaching ranks to 0.7 percent.

"As far as I know, we don't get many Latinos as applicants," said Chris Sonju, superintendent of Glencoe/Silver Lake schools. Latinos make up 16 percent of the student body, yet the district has no Latino teachers.

 "The applications don't list ethnic background," he added. "We hire the best person for the job no matter what his ethnic background is. But if he were the best person for the job, I would absolutely hire a Latino."

To bring Minnesota's burgeoning Latino community into the mainstream, the state needs to continue English language learner education in the early grades. It needs to increase Latino graduation rates by including parents in the education process and offering Latino teachers, principals and superintendents as role models.

And when we pay teachers the professional salaries they deserve, we will take a big step toward including more quality teachers of all cultures in public education.

 

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