Latino teachers are scarce in Minnesota

[Corrected paragraph] Between 2000 and 2005, the number ofdocumented Minnesota Latinos jumped 29 percent to 4 percent of thestate’s population. Latino enrollment in some Minnesota schools is asmuch as 30 percent.

But those U.S. Census estimates aren’tmatched by the number of Latino teachers, especially in GreaterMinnesota. While 30 percent of Minnesota Latinos live in Minneapolis orSt. Paul, 42 percent of the state’s Latino teachers work there. Of thetotal of 368 Latino teachers in Minnesota, 156 work in the St. Paul orMinneapolis districts, leaving 212 for the rest of the state.

Some examples:

Albert Lea

  • 2,025 Latinos in 2005
  • Latino share of school district population: 13.1 percent
  • Latino graduation rate: 51 percent
  • Latino teachers: none


  • 4,261 Latinos
  • Latino share of school district population: 17.3 percent
  • Latino graduation rate: 48 percent
  • Latino teachers: one


  • 3,531 Latinos
  • Latino share of school district population: 27.3 percent
  • Latino graduation rate: 53 percent
  • Latino teachers: one


  • 2,998 Latinos
  • Latino share of school district population: 31.5 percent
  • Latino graduation rate: 63 percent
  • Latino teachers: none

And many of these figures may actually undercount the numbers ofLatinos in Minnesota schools. When census questionnaires include othernames for folks from Latin American backgrounds, the five-year increaseamong Latinos aged 5 to 14 has registered as high as 58.6 percent.

Oscar Echandi Chittenden, the community liaison for the stateChicano Latino Affairs Council, cited many reasons for the scarcity ofLatino teachers.

“If they go to college, that’s four working years they lose,” hesaid. “There’s no incentive to go into education. For many Hispanics inMinnesota, their dream job is to be a mechanic. It pays more than beinga teacher.”

Only 50 to 60 percent of Latinos who start high school in Minnesotaget a diploma, despite the work of several programs across the stateaimed at boosting the graduation rate. Experts note severaldifficulties:

  • Latinos from migrant families often fall behind as they move to different schools.
  • Many see school as an intrusion on their working day.
  • Older Latino students have a hard time with bilingual education.

Greg Anderson, the English language learning supervisor at the St.Paul Public Schools, makes a simple correlation between Latino highschool graduation rates and the number of Latino teachers: “If theydon’t graduate, they don’t go on to college.”

Between 2000 and 2006, only 198 Latinos were licensed as teachersin Minnesota. That increased the Latino presence in the state’steaching ranks to 0.7 percent.

“As far as I know, we don’t get many Latinos as applicants,” saidChris Sonju, superintendent of Glencoe/Silver Lake schools. Latinosmake up 16 percent of the student body, yet the district has no Latinoteachers.

“The applications don’t list ethnic background,” he added. “We hirethe best person for the job no matter what his ethnic background is.But if he were the best person for the job, I would absolutely hire aLatino.”

To bring Minnesota’s burgeoning Latino community into themainstream, the state needs to continue English language learnereducation in the early grades. It needs to increase Latino graduationrates by including parents in the education process and offering Latinoteachers, principals and superintendents as role models.

And when we pay teachers the professional salaries they deserve, wewill take a big step toward including more quality teachers of allcultures in public education.

Posted: Sun, 09/16/2007 - 23:40


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