Alabama Officials Predict Fewer Minority Teachers

Alabama Officials Predict Fewer Minority Teachers  

FLORENCE, Ala.

      Education officials are predicting that there could be fewer minority teachers in schools if the trend continues.

      Of the 1,000 students majoring in education at the University of North Alabama, 8 percent are nonWhite.

      That figure is in keeping with the average percentage of certified minority employees in the Shoals school districts.

      Mark Edwards, dean of the college of education, says his program isn’t pulling in Black students or the international students who primarily pursue a business degree.

The result of those low minority numbers in his education program can only mean fewer minority teachers in the Shoals, he says.

      “NonWhite students just aren’t pursuing education degrees because they don’t believe it to be financially lucrative,” Edwards said. “Of those who do, there are countless school districts around the Southeast willing to pay bonuses and offer other incentives, and Alabama can’t compete.”

      The lure of large school districts in other states offering signing bonuses is attractive to young minorities who are seeking the cultural opportunities of big cities.

It’s a dilemma Sheneta Smith knows all too well.

      Smith, who is Black, became an administrative assistant in Muscle Shoals last year.

      She had been a physical education teacher for six years in the system. She has moved into administration and wears many hats: nonresident and homeless coordinator, attendance officer and director of the system’s English Language Learner program, to name a few.

      “I’m here because it was the first job I was offered,” Smith said, adding that both her parents are educators. “I believe in public education, and I stay with it.”

      Smith said she’d like to see other minorities follow suit. She’s active in the University of North Alabama’s Minority Diversity Committee through the college of education. The group’s mission is to identify young minorities, beginning as early as seventh and eighth grades, and encourage students to consider a career in education.

      “I have to be honest when I talk to these students because I honestly do believe things are changing for minorities in education, and they will have ample opportunities for employment,” Smith said. “I’ve had other opportunities at other places to work within education and outside the field. I think it can be easier to find employment as a Black woman these days, but at the same time I want to be chosen for a job because I can do the job, not because I have the right skin color. Minorities still have doors shut in some fields, but they’re open in education.”

      On a national scale, the Southern Education Foundation, based in Atlanta, reported in 2002 that the minority teacher population was then at 13 percent.

      The same group predicted that by 2005, if trends continued, the minority teacher number would drop to 5 percent or lower. Though the data hasn’t yet been compiled for 2005, officials with the foundation say the decline has continued as predicted.

      Locally, the number of minority teachers in 2005 has changed very little. Still, percentages of minority teachers in the Shoals remain in the 7-12 percent range. The exception is Franklin County, which has only two nonWhite employees, or less than 1 percent.

Associated Press



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