Unlocking the true potential of our education system requires recognizing the urgent need for Black male teachers in our classrooms. The presence of Black male teachers emerges as a catalyst for transformative learning experiences, but the lack of their presence is a concerning trend that doesn’t seem to be getting any better.
According to Time, more than 20% of public school teachers—including those at charter schools— in the U.S. identify as people of color, but only 7% of teachers identify as Black. For Black men, those numbers sink even lower. Based on data from Teach For America, Black men make up only 2% of the U.S. public school teaching force and are leaving the profession at a higher rate than their peers; but why?
One of the more obvious factors of why there aren’t more Black teachers is money, debt and the racial disparities in wealth. When a Black student goes to college in hopes of pursuing a teaching career they are more likely to rely on student loans for their graduate and undergraduate education compared to their white counterparts. This debt is stifling many young Black male teachers who might not be able to afford a living on a modest teacher’s salary.
On average, a high school teacher can expect to make around $60,000 a year, which varies from state to state. In Florida, the average teacher only makes $48,800 a year, but the annual income to afford a two-bedroom apartment is $51,619. Many Black male teachers do not see a way to feed their families on a teacher’s salary. The strenuous obligations of teaching as well as the financial burdens of debt push Black male teachers away from a profession where they are so desperately needed.
Black male teachers are an intricate part of improving academic outcomes for Black students finding their way. According to the peer-reviewed journal Early Education and Development, children taught by teachers of the same race develop better learning and problem-solving skills by the time they turn 7 years old. The impact was felt most in Black and Latino children.
Black men are also important in mentoring and counseling roles, especially for Black boys living in low-income households, many of whom do not have positive male role models in their lives. Exposure to a Black teacher for one year in elementary schools reduces high school dropout rates by 39%, according to a UNC study.
Sadly, Black boys are more than likely to go through their entire public school education without ever having a teacher who looks like them, and it’s heartbreaking when you realized they actually make a difference.
According to Donors Choose, Black male teachers spend more time mentoring and counseling students than teachers of any other demographic. They are also often expected to be the disciplinarian and school liaison to families of Black students. Their roles are just as important to the communities they serve as they are to the school who employs them.
So how do we get more Black male teachers?
First, let’s pay them for all the hats they must wear to be successful at their jobs. Secondly, let’s continue to promote the importance Black male teachers have on the lives of Black students.
Most Black men who become teachers do so because they were inspired to become a teacher by a teacher. We must continue to encourage our Black men to give back by showing them they matter.
The path toward a more equitable and enriched education system lies in the empowerment of Black male teachers, who bring unique perspectives to growing young minds.
This article originally appeared on NewsOne.