The Biden administration’s Department of Education announced millions of dollars in funding for colleges that train more minority teachers.
The Department of Education announced $8 million in a federal funding grant program Friday “aimed at increasing the diversity of the teacher workforce and preparing teachers to meet the needs of our most underserved students.” The grant is named after Augustus F. Hawkins, the first black politician elected west of the Mississippi River. It provides federal funding to support teacher preparation programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), so-called “Minority Serving Institutions,” and “Tribal Colleges and Universities.”
“At a time when we need to do more to support our teachers and the educator profession, Hawkins Centers of Excellence will help increase the number of well-prepared and qualified teachers, including teachers of color, in our workforce,” Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a press release Friday announcing the program. “We know that teachers of color benefit not only students of color, but all students. When students of color can see their backgrounds and experiences reflected in their teachers, we see higher levels of student achievement and engagement in school, and more students aspiring to be teachers themselves one day.”
The “Augustus F. Hawkins Centers of Excellence” program will target teacher training programs within these schools that “propose to incorporate evidence-driven practices into their teacher preparation programs.” By virtue of the fact that these schools educate a disproportionate number of minority teachers, they are “uniquely positioned to recruit, prepare, and place teachers who will provide culturally and linguistically relevant teaching in underserved and hard-to-staff schools,” the Department of Education said in its press release.
The program will also emphasize multilingual teachers, prioritizing applicants who “propose projects designed to increase the number of well-prepared teachers from diverse backgrounds, as well as bilingual and multilingual teachers with full certification.”
“Today’s teacher workforce does not reflect the demographics of the nation’s public school students,” the Department added. “More than 50% of public school students are students of color, yet in 2017-18, the most recent year for which data were available, only 21% of teachers were teachers of color. And while English learners are the fastest growing public school student demographic, comprising more than 10% of America’s enrollment, most states face a shortage of bilingual and multilingual teachers prepared and qualified to teach this population and foreign languages. These roles are critical for ensuring Americans can compete in the increasingly globalized economy, equal access to education opportunity for English Learners, and the creation of a strong economy in which all Americans can thrive.”
The Hawkins program was created in 2008, under Part B of Title II of the Higher Education Act of 1965. This year is the first time the program received federal funding since it was created. The money was appropriated for the Department of Education as part of the omnibus budget for fiscal year 2022. Former President Barack Obama had previously proposed some $40 million in funding for the program in his 2012 budget, but it was not approved.
The Education Department’s move comes as teachers unions call for more teachers and more financial resources to ease an ongoing shortage before the start of the 2022-2023 school year. National Education Association President Rebecca Pringle said in an interview that the U.S. is short by about 300,000 teachers and support staff nationwide.