Why aren’t there more Black male teachers? I recently attended a forum where this question was posed. I contend that a lack of intergenerational wealth transfers due to the historic exclusion of Blacks from many wealth building opportunities is a primary reason why there aren’t more Black male teachers. This along with the societal expectations of men needing to be the “breadwinners” for families deter many men from desiring to go into areas where there is a perceived lack of bread to win.
Unless one has a substantial intergenerational wealth transfer like someone gifting them with housing, a down payment, inheritance, investments, or money that is in addition to their own earned income, then it is extremely difficult in most major metro areas to financially support a family on a teacher’s salary.
Black males are simply starting from too far behind on average economically to move en masse into a subpar paying sector when they must compete in the marketplace for goods and services with their earnings garnered in one lifetime versus others who are much more likely to have multiple lifetimes of wealth funneled to them through higher levels of intergenerational wealth transfers that bolster their financial resources.
Until there is a major change in the perception and reality of teacher compensation then I do not believe that there will be any significant movement in the number of Black male teachers. Research has found that Black male students who have Black male teachers are more likely to have fewer disciplinary issues, lower dropout rates, and higher test scores in addition to there being a broader positive impact on students of all races.
There are many opinions as it pertains to the reason why Black men compose just 2% of the nation’s teacher workforce. A recent piece in The Hechinger Report entitled "Schools can’t afford to lose any more Black male educators" stated that “since the Covid-19 pandemic, teachers of all demographic backgrounds have been leaving the field. Poor pay, increased public scrutiny, micromanagement and other issues exacerbated by the pandemic have contributed to more vacancies nationwide.”
Efforts to recruit retired military personnel, police officers, and others who have a second form of passive income in the form of a pension or other source may be a viable strategy to help address immediate teacher shortages while many governments are still unwilling to drastically revolutionize teacher pay in a way that would make it competitive with higher wage industries.
Even those who have a tremendous passion for teaching may be forced to leave the profession to simply maintain a minimal standard of living amidst rapidly escalating inflation and housing prices.
Americans must face the choice of continuing to treat the teacher workforce as a charitable mission or shift to making it into an economically competitive industry that the best and brightest of our students’ desire to go into with intentionality as opposed to a default fall back up plan to go into if nothing else works out as is too often the case. How do we get more Black male teachers? Increase the amount of bread to win in the profession.
Dr. Marcus Bright is a scholar and social impact facilitator. He is the author of Brighter Ways Forward: Reflections on Sports, Tech, and Socioeconomic Mobility