• Jose Perez

Proposed Bill Would Hurt Struggling Students (Like I Was) the Most

There are a lot of factors that go into whether students succeed in school. For me, the passionate teachers who re-engaged me in education are at the top of the list. And my journey to find and keep those teachers was far from simple. So I have to ask, why are those educators at risk of losing their ability to teach? I have some questions …

School was always a struggle for me. I was forced to repeat first grade. Reading was especially painful—and still is. Until fourth grade, whenever I was told to take tests, I would literally bang my head on the desk until they let me out of taking them. Some teachers mentioned I might have dyslexia or other learning disabilities in addition to being an English Learner, but I was never given specific support. By 9th grade, I failed most of my classes at a traditional suburban high school. None of my teachers looked or sounded like me; none of them were of color.

That’s when I found the High School for Recording Arts in St. Paul, which serves about 300 students, most of whom have struggled in other schools. For me, it was a trip of two and a half hours each way, every day, taking two buses, a train, and a long walk home at night. I made that sacrifice for three years in Minnesota weather because I could learn with passionate teachers who re-engaged me and other students in learning. One of them was Haben Ghebregergish, a Black University of Chicago-educated math teacher who was able to inspire second-chance students like me.

That’s why I strongly oppose Representative Cedric Frazier’s bill (HF1376), which would make it even harder for schools to attract and keep teachers of color who are often crucial in helping students of color like myself reach our full potential.

Haben holds a Tier 2 teaching license. Only 5% of all teachers in Minnesota are of color, compared with 21% of Tier 1 and Tier 2 teachers. If HF1376 passes, Tier 1 and 2 teachers would face huge new barriers to remain teachers. I have a few questions for Rep. Frazier—the author of the bill:

When so many students of color already struggle, why should Minnesota make it more difficult, instead of less, for talented teachers like Haben to stay in teaching?

Why should Minnesota make it harder, not easier, for schools to hire and keep some of their strongest teachers, so that struggling students like me can benefit?

Why would Minnesota take steps to discourage teachers from the most racially diverse licensure tiers from staying in teaching, instead of encouraging them to stay?

Overall, why would the state with one of the nation’s largest racial opportunity gaps make changes that would likely reduce, not increase, the number of teachers of color supporting our most struggling students?

If I had fewer Tier 1 and Tier 2 teachers, I wouldn’t be who I am today, doing the civic leadership and advocacy I love to do. Please give the teachers who uplifted me and those who uplift so many other young people a clear, unobstructed pathway to continue their immensely under-appreciated work.


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