The ACLU of Maine today submitted comments to the Maine Department of Education in reaction to a draft of the State Education Plan. The ACLU encouraged the DOE to include a policy regarding the recruitment of diverse educators, which is currently absent from the plan.

“Increasing racial and ethnic diversity among educators is crucial to the success of all Maine students,” said Emma LeBlanc, a researcher with the ACLU who authored the ACLU’s comments. “We should strive for a diverse teacher and leadership pool that reflects the growing diversity of Maine’s students.”

The diversity of Maine’s students has steadily increased over the last two decades, with nonwhite students comprising 9 percent of all students in 2013. In some areas, nonwhite students make up as much as 50 percent of the school population. Yet the statewide rate of nonwhite teachers as of 2012 remained at less than 3 percent.

The ACLU’s recommendations pointed to research showing that hiring teachers of color has numerous benefits for all students, including:

  • Preparing all students to live in a diverse society; 
  • Eroding negative racial stereotypes among students;
  • Providing valuable role models and advocates for students of color;
  • Improving academic outcomes; and
  • Improving creativity and innovation in addressing the challenges facing our public education system.

Despite the proven benefits of teacher diversity for student success, lack of teacher diversity is a problem that affects every state in the U.S. However, several states have implemented successful programs to recruit, train and retain more teachers of color. 

“Maine will only continue to become more diverse, and we have an opportunity to diversify our teaching workforce before these racial inequities become entrenched,” said Zachary Heiden, legal director at the ACLU of Maine. “Many new Mainers were teachers before they arrived in Maine, and we should embrace them as a valuable resource.”

The ACLU of Maine’s comments to the DOE are available here: https://www.aclumaine.org/sites/default/files/march_30_2017.pdf

 

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