In 2018, America’s students are a diverse bunch ― a majority of students in our schools now come from minority groups. However, the educators working with these students are still overwhelmingly white and female. President Donald Trump’s immigration policies may only make this problem worse ― especially for Latinx students and teachers.
Latinx students are the largest ethnic minority in our nation’s schools, making up about a quarter of all students in kindergarten through 12th grade. On the other hand, less than 8 percent of the nation’s teachers identify as Latinx.
This problem is especially severe in certain states, per new data from the left-leaning Center for American Progress. In states such as California, about half of the school students are Latinx, yet there is a gap of more than 36 percentage points between the numbers of Latinx students and teachers. States like Nevada, Arizona and Texas also have gaps of over or about 30 percentage points.
Advocates fear this problem will get worse as the future of programs like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals are in jeopardy. About 20,000 teachers nationwide are Dreamers, the name given to recipients of the DACA protection against deportation for those who arrived in the U.S. as minors. Trump has rescinded DACA but given Congress a deadline to “fix” the program. So far, however, he has put obstacles in the path of several efforts to spare it.
And as the president generally maintains a contentious relationship with the nation’s immigrant and Latinx communities, teachers who understand these issues can be an important resource for students. Bilingual Latinx teachers could also play a key role in helping English language learners.
It’s an issue that has grown in urgency as teachers report watching their immigrant students experience increasing difficulty engaging in school amid what appears to be a more hostile national climate.
“Teacher diversity in general is an issue. The problems we face to attract Latino teachers has its own separate sphere of problems,” said Sarah Shapiro, a research assistant at the Center for American Progress who worked on the brief.
The Center for American Progress found that 40 of 41 states with available data had a Latinx student and teacher diversity gap.
“I’m hoping that in the coming years, people will begin to see DACA-mented teachers as the embodiment of the American dream. Hopefully they can be a reminder to their students and communities that we are a nation of immigrants,” said Lisette Partelow, director of K-12 Strategic Initiatives at American Progress.