SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Georgia public education leaders are facing an alarming trend when it comes to teachers in the classroom. There is a massive lack of diversity when it comes to who’s teaching your children. Simply put, no district in the Coastal Empire has near the same percentage of non-white teachers compared to non-white students.
According to data, roughly 30 percent of teachers are non-white in Georgia; just over 60 percent of students are non-white.
You can look at a county-by-county breakdown below:
In South Carolina, roughly 22 percent of teachers are non-white. That’s despite about half of the students being non-white.
Nationwide, the National Center for Education Statistics shows about 30 percent of teachers are non-white, compared to about half of students in public schools, according to their most recent data.
“I won’t say I’m surprised,” SCCPSS Superintendent Dr. Ann Levett said. “I will say I’m disappointed.”
Levett said systems need to do a better job at hiring diverse candidates. In fact, she wrote a thesis on the lack of African-American teachers in public education earlier in her career.
“We feel like students ought to be able to see persons who look like them in the classroom,” Dr. Levett said.
Levett said desegregation played a role, as blacks were pushed out of schools as teachers and encouraged to pursue other careers.
In Georgia, the numbers show fewer students are getting into education. The number of students in education programs in the University System of Georgia dropped by more than 100 in the last four years. Minorities still make up a small percentage of those students.
“African-American young students, in particular, need to see African-Americans in those positions so they can know in their core that they have that type of capability themselves,” Ronald Christopher, the chairman of Beach Institute, said.
Beach Institute was the first school for African-Americans in Savannah after emancipation. Christopher said the lack of diversity affects every non-white student though.
“These students come from a specific cultural background and that implies that there’s a way to reach them; there’s a way to engage them,” Christopher said. “Perhaps the best way to do that is to have people coming from the same culture.”
One superintendent who spoke off-the-record said the bigger issue is finding candidates in general. Most school leaders feel like the pay discourages people from getting into education.
Dr. Levett said diversity is important but hiring competent teachers who want to be in the classroom is more important, regardless of skin color.
“I want people who really want to teach and who really love children, and also teachers who are highly qualified,” Dr. Levett said.
Interestingly, Levett said there was a push nationwide to hire diverse candidates in the early 90s. Now more than two decades later, she is discouraged much more progress hasn’t been made on that front.