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What will the future of NC’s teacher diversity task force look like?

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The DRIVE task force met on Tuesday to discuss North Carolina’s efforts to diversify the state’s teacher workforce and hear from representatives in Minnesota, Ohio, and Tennessee about the efforts in those states.

Gov. Roy Cooper established the Developing a Representative & Inclusive Vision for Education (DRIVE) Task Force when he signed Executive Order 113 in December 2019. The task force held a statewide summit in June 2020 and voted on its recommendations this past December. Now, the clock is running out on its existence.

“I want to highlight the urgency of our work as a task force,” Chair Anthony Graham said in his opening remarks. “As it currently stands, Executive Order No. 113 is set to expire in less than six months. … We have continued to engage stakeholders by presenting findings from the report, but as we discussed at our last task force meeting, we have to consider the best path forward for our collective body as we advocate for the implementation of the DRIVE report’s recommendations.”

Task force members discussed establishing subcommittees for advocacy efforts, planning another DRIVE summit, and acting as a clearinghouse for gathering information about local initiatives and funding opportunities over the next six months.

As for the future, members wondered aloud whether the task force should become a nonprofit to continue the work or if the work should fall under an existing nonprofit — like the Dudley Flood Center for Educational Equity and Opportunity at the Public School Forum.

The work must continue, members agreed. Alfred Mays, a task force member from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, called the work critical and said his organization was prepared to commit funds to its continued efforts.

“I’d like to obligate some investment into next steps in addition to some of the ad hoc and strategic awards,” he said.

The task force got a glimpse of some different governance structures when it heard about teacher diversity efforts in three states. Minnesota’s is a grassroots coalition that applies for grants, advocates, and coordinates efforts to close the gap in its state — where the student population is 35% students of color/American Indian but the teacher workforce is 5.64%.

The Minnesota coalition has gotten 10 comprehensive bills to increase teacher diversity introduced and some policy passed, which stood out to task force members.

“I think that is important, to codify what the task force did or wanted to do into law,” task force member Guy Hill said.

In Ohio, teacher diversity efforts are led by a center housed in the Department of Education. It has 40 task force members working to close the gap. Ohio is 30% students of color whereas the workforce is 5% teachers of color.

In Tennessee, a network of educators formed an Educator Diversity Advocacy Council. Tennessee has 39% students of color and about 15% teachers of color.

“Who’s going to own this?” asked Diarese George, the founder and director of the Tennessee network of educators called the Tennessee Educators of Color Alliance. “We can’t depend on the state departments to own this. We can’t depend on agencies. Those things are going to shift, we already know that. Governments are going to shift … There needs to be an anchored level of ownership. I would highly encourage that maybe the DRIVE task force coalesces and becomes its own nonprofit.”

No decision was made as task force members are considering the options and expect to return to the subject next month. One thing, though, is for certain in their minds.

“A group like this needs to remain together to monitor our progress,” task force member King Prather said. “If it’s not funded by the state, we can’t wait for the state, I think that’s what one of the presenters said. It’s too important to wait for the state.”

Rupen Fofaria

Rupen Fofaria is the equity and learning differences reporter at EducationNC. He exists to shine light, including by telling stories about under-reported issues.