Arne On Tour: Teachers Are Too White, Too Poor, Too Female

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Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, embarking on a bus tour across the country since taking office, said Monday that the U.S. needs a higher-paid teaching force with with more minorities and men in it.

The tour, Duncan’s fifth annual one since taking office, opened in Atlanta on Monday, where Secretary Duncan addressed students at Spelman College, a historically black women’s liberal arts college.

This year, America’s public schoolchildren are expected to be majority non-white for the first time ever, a shift primarily driven by a drastic rise in the Hispanic population. However, the demographics of teachers are far different, Duncan observed. If the number of black and Hispanic teachers doubled, they still would not reflect the make-up of the student body, he said. Similarly, while boys are half of the student population, the vast majority of teachers are women.

Adjusting the make-up of teachers would improve educational outcomes and “is doing the right thing for our nation,” Duncan said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

According to Department of Education data, in the 2011-12 school year 82 percent of schoolteachers were white, while seven percent were black and eight percent were Hispanic. In addition, over 76 percent of teachers are women.

One way to create a more diverse teaching corps, Duncan said, would be to boost teacher pay and make the profession more prestigious, thereby attracting a greater array of people to the job.

“I think great teachers have to make a heck of a lot more money,” he said.

Duncan’s bus tour plans to visit many other locations in Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee in the next few days. He is being joined by First Lady Michelle Obama, who spoke Monday at an Atlanta high school. The two are promoting the Obama administration’s Reach Higher Initiative, which encourages high school students to pursue some form of higher education after graduating.

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