Teacher diversity bill may push hundreds of Minnesota educators of color from classrooms

By: | March 15, 2021

The first thing N’Jai-An Patters may do in a few weeks, after congratulating the class of 2021, is dust off her resume. After eight successful years in the classroom, she is supposed to get a permanent teaching credential this summer. But a bill moving forward in the Legislature could block her path, one of two politically charged measures affecting diversity — or lack thereof — in the state’s teacher corps.

Patters teaches Advanced Placement government and politics to 12th-graders at Minneapolis’s Hiawatha Collegiate High School. Her path to the classroom was unconventional. She has a Ph.D. in history from the University of Minnesota and experience helping scores of educators burnish their skills, serving on committees that recommend candidates for master’s degrees and coaching classroom teachers to be more effective.

In a state where 95 percent of the teacher corps is white, there’s a shortage of people like Patters, educators of color who want to work in schools serving primarily students who look like her. But a provision of the bill, House File 1081 — initially dubbed the Increase Teachers of Color Act — would squeeze off a pipeline that’s attracted hundreds of diverse, successful educators with the promise of permanent licenses.

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