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Student Debt Hampering Teacher Diversity at Public Schools

The unequal student loan debt burden is contributing to a lack of diversity among faculty members in public schools, a new report, released by the Center for American Progress (CAP), found.

Authored by Bayliss Fiddiman, Colleen Campbell, and Lisette Partelow, the “Student Debt: An Overlooked Barrier to Increasing Teacher Diversity” report found that 91 percent of black students and 82 percent of Hispanic students who were trained to teach borrowed federal student loans, compared with only 76 percent of white students.

CAP analyzed data from the National Center for Education Statistics Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study for its analysis.

Between 2008 and 2012, black students who were trained to teach experienced a higher median federal student loan debt in comparison to other racial groups, while simultaneously earning less in comparison to their white counterparts.

“Even though the majority of students in America’s public schools are nonwhite and studies have shown that these students perform better in classrooms with teachers of the same race, still just 1 in 5 teachers in America identify as people of color,” Bayliss Fiddiman, senior policy analyst for K-12 education at CAP, said.

“This report shows that not only are teachers entering a field that pays them less than similarly educated professionals, but the cost of entrance is a greater burden for teachers of color.”

The report recommended various policy measures to ease the effects of student debt on teachers of color, which include increasing teachers’ salaries and increasing support for teacher preparation programs at minority-serving institutions

It also recommended district- or state-based loan forgiveness programs and scholarships as a recruitment tool to cultivate a more diverse teacher workforce.

Last week, Beto O’Rourke proposed offering 100 percent student loan debt forgiveness for school teachers, allowing them to focus completely on their students instead of worrying about paying their debts back. He also promised to protect the right for teachers to organize, paid family leave, affordable childcare, universal pre-K, universal health care and a minimum wage that is a living wage. 

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