Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ),Congressman Jesús "Chuy" García (D-IL), and Congresswoman Jahana Hayes (D-CT) reintroduced the Diversifying by Investing in Educators and Students to Improve outcomes For Youth (DIVERSIFY) Act, legislation that would complement the important administrative fixes to the TEACH Grant proposed in the College Affordability Act by ensuring the grant amount closely matches college costs. Additionally, the legislation would increase the TEACH Grant award to support students interested in becoming teachers, ensuring an education workforce is as diverse as the students it serves. The lawmakers were successful in including provisions from the DIVERSIFY Act in the American Families Plan.
Our nation's service scholarship for teachers – The TEACH Grant Program – was created by the bipartisan College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007. This program provides scholarships of $4,000 per year to undergraduate and graduate students who commit to teaching a high-need subject in a high-poverty elementary or secondary school for four years.
However, due to the rising cost of college and student loan debt, many people of color are deterred from teaching and leaving many students in underserved communities without diverse teachers. While a majority of public school students are children of color, only 20% of all teachers are people of color, which can negatively impact a student's educational experience.
“Teachers have had to adjust to a new reality over the course of the last year, revealing the many challenges that come with virtual learning,” said Senator Booker. “As we continue to ask them to do more and often on their dime, we must focus on putting money back in their pockets and ensure that they have access to the TEACH grant program and are able to reduce their student loans. By doubling the TEACH grant and stopping the harmful yearly cuts to the program, this legislation will show our teachers that we care and support them as they give their all to preparing our next generation. It additionally will diversify our education system and ensure that students of color have teachers that look like them.”
“Students deserve to see their own diversity reflected in those who teach them. In Chicago, however, less than 50% of teachers come from diverse backgrounds while students of color make up nearly 90% of the student population. The DIVERSIFY Act will address the shortage in educator diversity by strengthening scholarship programs intended to recruit a diverse education workforce,” said Congressman García. “All students, not just students of color, benefit from a diverse teaching staff but Latino and Black students, in particular, are more likely to succeed in school when they have teachers that look like them. The DIVERSIFY Act is a key step forward in ending historical barriers to a diverse education workforce and it is high-time we invest in teacher diversity.”
“The DIVERSIFY Act will ensure that students from all backgrounds can see themselves reflected in their teachers and the leadership of their schools. So many students in Connecticut and across the country go their entire K-12 educational careers without ever being taught by a teacher who shares their ethnicity. Having a diverse teacher workforce has been shown to effect student outcomes with higher attendance rates, better performance on standardized tests, lower rates of disciplinary issues and better chances of pursing higher education” said Congresswoman Hayes. "I believe the DIVERSIFY Act will encourage more to consider becoming educators. Sometimes children need to see it to be it. Increasing the TEACH Grant through this legislation is an important solution to improving equity in our classroom today and in the future.”
The DIVERSIFY Act will help create a well-prepared and diverse educator workforce by:
“Preparing, growing and empowering a new generation of talented and diverse teachers in our schools is among the most urgent priorities of our time. The DIVERSIFY Act makes that pathway into the profession more affordable and attainable, and it will help give our students the excellent and equitable education they deserve,” said Teach Plus CEO and President Roberto J. Rodríguez.
“AACTE strongly supports Senator Booker’s legislation to diversify and grow the teacher workforce by making it more affordable to enter the field. AACTE has long advocated doubling the TEACH grant to reduce the teacher shortage and urges Congress to pass this legislation as soon as possible,” said Dr. Lynn M. Gangone, President and CEO of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.
"Even though our public schools are desperately in need of high-quality educators, we're seeing long-standing shortages exacerbated amidst the pandemic, particularly in high-need areas like special education. At the same time, the diversity of the teaching workforce falls far short of mirroring the diversity of our student population. Now is the time for targeted reform in how we recruit and retain educators. Senator Booker's DIVERSIFY Act sets out the necessary first steps toward ensuring that more students have access to high-quality, diverse educators,” said Meghan Whittaker, Director of Policy & Advocacy, National Center for Learning Disabilities.
“No one should have to go deep into debt to be able to pursue a career of service in public education. By helping reduce the financial burden for prospective educators, the DIVERSIFY Act will enable more students from a wider array of backgrounds to pursue their calling. Building a deeper and wider pool of highly qualified potential educators will help accelerate the important work of creating an educator workforce that mirrors the diversity of our nation and especially of our public school classrooms. NJEA thanks Senator Booker for his work to address this problem and building the collaboration necessary to achieve the goal,” said Marie Blistan President of NJEA.
“Attracting a high quality, well-prepared educator workforce fully reflective of racial, cultural, and linguistic diversity is critical to supporting infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities and/or gifts and talents,” said Council for Exceptional Children President Dennis Cavitt, Ed.D. I applaud the introduction of the DIVERSIFY Act, which will get us one step closer to this urgent goal.”
“We are experiencing a disturbing teacher shortage in many of our schools. The DIVERSIFY Act can help ensure that America’s children have access to diverse teachers, who are committed to—and prepared for—teaching in high needs fields and schools," said NASSP CEO Ronn Nozoe. “By increasing the maximum TEACH grant award through this Act, we can also alleviate some of the financial constraints placed on aspiring teachers as they pursue higher education.”
In addition to Booker, the legislation is cosponsored Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Ed Markey (D-MA).
In addition to García and Hayes, the legislation is co-sponsored by Representatives Sanford D. Bishop, Jr., Jimmy Panetta, Ruben Gallego, Steve Cohen, Mary Gay Scanlon, Adam Smith, Darren Soto, Alan Lowenthal, Nydia Velázquez, Ayanna Pressley, Earl Blumenauer, Lucy McBath, Salud Carbajal, Anthony G. Brown, Seth Moulton, Albio Sires, Grace Meng, David Trone, Cori Bush, Dina Titus, Ritchie Torres, Raúl M. Grijalva, Jan Schakowsky, Mark Pocan, Grace F. Napolitano, Judy Chu, Peter Welch, Jerrold Nadler, Rashida Tlaib, Jamie Raskin, Jake Auchincloss, Lisa Blunt Rochester, Ro Khanna, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
The DIVERSIFY Act is endorsed by the following organizations: Council of Administrators of Special Education, Council for Exceptional Children, Division for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children, Knowledge Works, Aurora Institute, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), The Rural School and Community Trust, Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), Public Advocacy for Kids, Public Advocates, Southern Education Foundation, Teach Plus, Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children (TED), The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE), National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), The Joint National Committee for Languages (JNCL), National Education Association (NEA), AASA, The School Superintendents Association, AFT-New Jersey (AFTNJ), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), California Association for Bilingual Education (CABE), Higher Education Consortium for Special Education (HECSE), Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), Illinois Federation of Teachers, Chicago Teachers Union, Latino Policy Forum, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council Chicago, Illinois Association for Multilingual Multicultural Education
Full text of the legislation can be viewed here.