“It’s Time for Bold Moves on Teacher Diversity in California,” Educators Say to Policymakers

“It’s Time for Bold Moves on Teacher Diversity in California,” Educators Say to Policymakers

New Teach Plus report lays out three top-ranked ideas from California teachers to diversify the profession in the state

January 5, 2023—Research consistently shows that teachers of color benefit all students, and especially students of color. With only 21 percent of California’s students identifying as white, policymakers are addressing the need to recruit and retain a more diverse teaching force in the state through funding, professional development, and other initiatives. But which investments are going to have the greatest impact? A new Teach Plus report, “It is Time to be Bold to Diversify our Teaching Force: A Call to Action from California Educators of Color,“ highlights three top ideas California educators of color believe can result in a diverse, sustainable educator workforce and includes recommendations for policymakers on their implementation.

Teach Plus California Executive Director Sarah Lillis states, “California educators are sending a clear message to state leaders: if you are serious about fostering a sustainable and diverse educator workforce to meet the needs of our students, then make bold investments that demonstrate how we as a state value the professionals in our classrooms. This report highlights a number of strategies that California teachers of color view as game changers for growing and sustaining a diverse educator workforce.”

“The high percentage of professionals leaving public education paired with the low percentage of those choosing to enter the field paints a clear picture. We no longer need to ask why. Instead, we need state and local leaders to prioritize real solutions that eliminate ‘wage penalties’ for those choosing the teaching profession. Students deserve to have knowledgeable, talented, and well-paid professionals on their educational journey,” says Teach Plus Policy Fellow and Los Angeles Unified teacher Gina Gray.

For the report, Teach Plus teacher leaders researched and compiled a set of seven potential ideas and initiatives aimed at improving workforce diversity. The ideas fell into three key categories: (1) investing in targeted preparation and support for educators of color; (2) investing in robust benefits and wraparound supports for educators; and (3) increased compensation. The authors then conducted focus groups with 41 educators of color from across California. Through these focus groups, the authors pinpointed the top three options with the greatest impact on the educator workforce:

  1. Statewide initiatives to fund teacher preparation programs aimed at low-income and minority teachers.
  2. Home-buying programs or rental assistance for teachers.
  3. Increased benefits such as free healthcare, childcare credits, and tuition assistance.

In addition to identifying the most impactful ideas, the teachers in the focus groups spoke about their own experiences entering the profession, what they perceive as barriers to diversifying it, and whether or not they take on additional responsibilities in their school or district. The teachers identified the cost of entering the profession and the high cost of living in California as barriers to recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce. Nearly two thirds of the teachers in the focus groups reported that they take on additional responsibilities within their school or district for additional income and to contribute to school culture and address student needs.

Leveraging the learnings from the focus groups, Teach Plus teacher leaders propose the following recommendations for policymakers to recruit and retain an effective and diverse workforce in California:

  • State leaders should address the high cost of entry into the profession and ensure more sustainable compensation by increasing beginning salaries so they are indicative of the skills, knowledge, and work performed by educators inside and outside of the classroom.
  • State leaders should incentivize local leaders to invest in comprehensive compensation packages that include critical support for educators like housing and childcare.
  • State leaders should invest in strategic retention strategies like fostering teacher leadership opportunities and career support to recognize and respect teacher expertise.

“Now, more than ever, students deserve educators to help them achieve their goals and recover from COVID-19 learning loss. Just as we remove barriers of excellence for students, so must the state do the same for educators. By removing financial barriers to entry and increasing remuneration for California’s educators we can continue to be The Golden State,” shares Teach Plus Senior Policy Fellow and lead author of the brief Nicholas Dewald who teaches in San Juan Capistrano Unified.

About Teach Plus
The mission of Teach Plus is to empower excellent, experienced, and diverse teachers to take leadership over key policy and practice issues that affect their students’ success. Since 2009, Teach Plus has developed thousands of teacher leaders across the country to exercise their leadership in shaping education policy and improving teaching and learning, to create an education system driven by access and excellence for all. Teachplus.org


Contact: Anya Grottel-Brown, agrottelbrown@teachplus.org, 917-902-5902