Despite the fact Minnesota's schools are growing increasingly diverse, its teacher workforce is 96 percent white, according to a state report released this week.

Every two years, the Minnesota Department of Education releases a report to lawmakers that examines the state's teacher workforce with a particular focus on supply and demand

The lack of racial diversity among Minnesota's teachers is one of the report's more alarming findings.

While there has been a slight increase in the number of Hispanic and Asian teachers, the percentage of teachers of color in Minnesota is 3.8 percent. Of the 58,211 public school teachers in the state, about 900 are Asian, 600 are black, 500 are Hispanic and 250 are American Indian, according to 2014 numbers.

The report also shows that Minnesota school districts continue to struggle to find teachers to work with students with special needs as shown by the number of special permissions given by the state to teachers to work outside their license area.

That number of licensed special education teachers in 2014 was slightly down from the year before, but shows a modest increase over the past five years.

Some metro-area school districts have had such a hard time finding special education teachers that they've thrown their efforts into "grow your own" programs like the one recently launched by the University of Minnesota and Intermediate District 916. That program helps paraprofessionals earn their masters degree and become licensed to work with students who have emotional and behavioral disorders. Participants receive on-the-job training so they don't have to quit work as a paraprofessional while they earn their degree.

Other high demand teaching areas cited in the report include: English as a second language, early childhood special education, math, Spanish and physics.

Areas where there is a surplus of teachers include: K-6, physical education, and high school social studies.

The authors of the report say that in addition to the lack of racial diversity in Minnesota's teacher workforce, lawmakers should also be aware of the fact that many districts say they having a tough time finding both short-term and long-term substitute teachers. Also warranting lawmakers' attention, is the fact teaching colleges are reporting that the current slate of testing requirements for teachers is a barrier to recruiting and preparing new teachers.
 

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