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Opinion editor's note: Editorials represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom.


Increasing the number of teachers of color in Minnesota classrooms is a smart goal. The state's student population becomes more racially diverse every year, making it increasingly critical for educators to reflect the kids they teach.

There are several proposals before the Legislature this session to add millions in funding to recruit and retain teachers, including line items in Gov. Tim Walz's budget. The aim is to bring more teaching candidates into preparation programs through efforts such as "Grow Your Own."

Currently, the state spends about $13 million on grants to districts to help them recruit and retain minority teachers. The governor's plan would add another $17.5 million beginning in fiscal year 2024.

And bills introduced in both the House and Senate would update the Increase Teachers of Color Act. Legislation from Rep. Hodan Hassan, DFL-Minneapolis, would commit more than $60 million per year to bolster efforts to recruit and retain teachers of color.

"We need to be bold and unapologetic about reducing disparities for our students who are Black, Indigenous and people of color," Hassan told the Star Tribune.

According to the most recent report to the Legislature from the state Education Department, Grow Your Own programs are in the early evaluation stage. For now, the level of additional funding proposed by Walz seems appropriate.

The Star Tribune Editorial Board has long supported efforts to make teaching staffs more diverse. According to the Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board, just over 50% of the students in the seven-county metro area are people of color, yet fewer than 10% of educators are. And that disparity extends to Greater Minnesota where about a quarter to a third of students are children of color, and almost all their teachers are white.

During a hearing last week, Republican legislators indicated support for increasing diversity in the teaching ranks while raising concerns about lowering standards.

We'd agree that plans to change the criteria for teacher licensure need further discussion. And lawmakers should question whether to add to or continue an existing $400,000 program that has so far mostly failed to attract teachers of color from other states.

Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, who was the author of previous versions of the bill Hassan introduced this year, told the Star Tribune that he'd also like to see colleges and universities be more proactive. "I think we need to take a close look at the pipeline that is producing our teachers in the state of Minnesota — our colleges and universities. What are they doing?"

Research has shown that all students benefit from having teachers of various backgrounds, racial and otherwise. And particularly for kids of color, it can lead to improved attendance, academic performance and graduation rates. Those are the kind of changes that can have a significant impact on narrowing Minnesota's stubbornly persistent achievement disparities.

State leaders are right to support diversifying and strengthening teaching staffs. Having educators who are more reflective of the students they teach and the world we live in is good not only for students of color, but for all Minnesotans.