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Shortage of minority teachers at Buffalo Public Schools

Posted at 10:43 AM, Sep 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-16 17:58:30-04

A shortage of minority teachers in Buffalo has superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash pushing for a more diverse teaching staff.

Buffalo Public Schools serves more than 32,000 students. 67 percent of them are either Black or Latino. But only about 10 percent of teachers are minorities.

"This goes well beyond black or white. This is also Hispanic teachers. Not that you have a teacher for every language or every culture. But there are just many talented people migrating into Buffalo we like to get them trained to be teachers," Dr. Cash said.

7 Eyewitness news went to Buffalo State's School of Education to find out why fewer minorities wanting to become teachers.

"The young people yesterday shared with me, low pay, bad kids, behavior problems i should say disrespectful parents," Buffalo State's Urban Education Professor, Dr. Jevon Hunter said.

He said these stereotypes are part of the reason minorities are not going into the teaching field. Hunter said the other parts are structural racism and young people not understanding the true value of teaching.

"They need to be reminded that teaching is not just a noble profession, it is something you did as part of your rights as a citizen as something that you do," Hunter said. 

William O'Neil White is an English education graduate student at Buffalo State and he said he's the only black man in his department. The Buffalo native said teaching was a dream for him. He thinks the teacher shortage is a bigger issue than most realize.

"I think that our city in particular has been grappling with issues of race and gender. I mean even the transgender students in the bathroom issue going on now and we're kind of behind the times coming to terms with a lot of these issues," White said.

Buffalo Public Schools is trying to tackle some of these issues head on with a "Grow Your Own" Program. It gives high schoolers a chance to learn more about the teaching profession. Dr. Cash plans to work with Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn to get students of color to teach in Buffalo. He also wants to work with local colleges to get more minorities applying for education degrees.

"Then we need to work with the state to not make it easier but less cumbersome to get a teaching credential here in New York," Cash said.

Buffalo State Professor, Dr. Hunter said more needs to be done.

"We should start paying our young people to become tutors in elementary, middle, and high schools. Then I think we should talk about guaranteed jobs at the end when they receive their teaching certification," Hunter said.

This minority teachers shortage issue is quickly becoming a priority for Buffalo State as well.

"We do need to develop a program that's very specific that's very targeted with support systems and pipeline strategies. But Buffalo State has been prepared to do this work for a long time now," Buffalo School of Education Dean, Dr. Wendy Paterson said.

7 Eyewitness News found several urban teaching programs that are working across the country. Here is the link to a program http://www.kcteach.org that Kansas City is using to entice teachers to their schools. Here's a very well established Teacher Residency Program in Memphis http://www.memphistr.org

If you're a new teacher, this might be a fun and inspiring video to watch, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBLcuGunRxU