Minnesota lawmakers last year earmarked $400,000 to help several school districts attract more educators of color from other states, aiming to boost a teaching corps that doesn't match an increasingly diverse student body.
But so far, schools have hired only six educators who are Black, Indigenous or other people of color, and nine of the 11 participating districts didn't hire any. And, according to a legislative report published by the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) this month, none of them immediately qualified for the bonus that is tied to a certain level of teaching license.
"While this result falls short of the program's goals, there were several lessons learned from the pilot experience that will lead to stronger results in the future," Tamara Valmé, program lead at MDE, wrote in the legislative report.
The Come Teach in Minnesota program represents one of the most recent pushes by state and school officials to create more parity between Minnesota's rapidly diversifying student body and its largely white teaching corps. In order to qualify for the hiring bonus, out-of-state educators must be eligible for a Tier 3 license, which includes several requirements and can be renewed indefinitely.
Despite shortcomings in the program's rollout, Valmé wrote that school leaders surveyed by the Department of Education want it to continue.
The report suggested three key fixes for the coming year: nixing the requirement that teachers be licensed in another state, allowing educators with a Tier 2 license to qualify for the bonus and allowing districts to use grant funds to pay for out-of-state recruiting trips.
Nearly 37% of Minnesota's public school students are pupils of color, according to Department of Education data, while 95% of the state's educators are white.
In the seven-county metro area, students of color represent nearly 48% of enrollment and 88% of teachers are white. The Come Teach in Minnesota program had enough funding for Minnesota districts to recruit 41 educators of color this year.
Eligible hires would get $2,500 upon obtaining their Tier 3 license and another $2,500 if they work for the same district for four years and an extra $3,000 if they work in an area experiencing acute shortages such as special education and English language learner programs.
Minnetonka Public Schools hired four teachers who will qualify for the bonus once they meet the requirement for a Tier 3 license, spokeswoman JacQui Getty said.
"Recruitment and retention of exceptional teachers and staff, including specific efforts, such as pursuit of this grant support, to help us create a representative workforce that will enrich the learning environment for all students, is critical to continue the excellence in education that Minnetonka Public Schools provides," Superintendent David Law said in a statement.
The district hired four elementary educators of color, three of whom work in its Spanish and Chinese language immersion programs.
In Rochester, the state greenlit five bonuses for the district. Officials didn't succeed in luring out-of-state applicants during the 10-month recruitment window that closed on Oct. 1, but later reported that they realized two of their recent hires will qualify once they obtain a Tier 3 license.
The district declined to say what subjects those educators teach, citing concerns about privacy.
"As part of our new strategic plan, Rochester Public Schools (RPS) is working to create learning environments where all students think and feel they belong," Superintendent Kent Pekel said in a statement. "One of the ways we are accomplishing this is by ensuring educators at RPS reflect the diversity in our student body."