RICHMOND, Va. — Educators across the country say there is a desperate need for Black teachers — especially male teachers of color — inside the classroom.
Pew Research reveals 7% of all teachers in America are Black. Less than 2% of educators are Black men.
A study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research shows Black students who have one Black teacher in elementary school are 13% more likely to enroll in college. The same study said Black students with two Black elementary teachers are 32% more likely to go to college.
Research also shows students of all backgrounds benefit from having a Black educator in the classroom starting at an early age.
Marcus Flynn serves full time as the executive director of Black Men Teach based in Minneapolis. His advocacy group works to move more diversity into the classroom.
He said Black students often experience what he describes as school-induced trauma from an early age. Historically, Black students are under-educated and over-disciplined.
Flynn also discussed the financial implications of teaching.
“It’s not the most financially responsible decision to go into the classroom. You look at how Black students on average graduate with more debt than white students. You come in and have a debt total higher than the starting salary when you come in,” he explained.
Richmond Public Schools (RPS) is one local district that is intentional about their plan to hire with more diversity. They call their program RVA Men Teach.
Rodney Robinson is a senior advisor at RPS focusing on teacher pathways for the program that intentionally recruits and retain professionally developing male educators of color.
Robinson spent most of his teaching career at Armstrong High School. Most recently he held a teaching job at Binford Education Center, a school inside the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center.
He admits that the number of Black educators in the classroom is way too low. The Richmond educator said you can look at history to explain why.
“Upwards of 60,000 Black teachers were fired after Brown vs Board of Education,” Robinson recalled. “That’s a lot of educational capital that was lost. This country has never been intentional of replacing that educational capital. If you were intentional, you’d create better experiences for Black students in school. You’d create scholarships for Blacks that want to go into education.”
Flynn said districts can pay teachers more or offer student loan forgiveness for those who enter education.