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Minnesota considers millions of dollars for ‘Teachers of Color Act’

University program only open to ‘person of color or American Indian’

The “Increase Teachers of Color Act” in Minnesota would give millions of dollars to various programs only aimed at racial minority teachers.

The bills, in both chambers of the state legislature, would allocate $10 million to the “aspiring Minnesota teachers of color scholarship program.”

The legislative session ends next Monday, May 20.

It extends a program that first began in 2021 to “establish a scholarship pilot program to support undergraduate and graduate students who are preparing to become teachers, have demonstrated financial need, and belong to racial or ethnic groups underrepresented in the state’s teacher workforce,” according to the text of the original program.

Despite all the language indicating the money is intended for non-white aspiring teachers, the state told The College Fix the program complies with racial discrimination law.

The state pointed out that some individuals who listed white as a race applied, in response to questions about the legality of the Teachers of Color program.

“All of our financial programs are established by the Minnesota Legislature, I would refer you to the bills/legislative history,” Keith Hovis, communications director for the Office of Higher Education, stated via email to The Fix. “This program was a one time appropriation and is set to end summer 2024.”

“If you read our latest report on the program…you will see on page three that it has been awarded to people of all races, including those who indicated that they were white,” Hovis said, including a copy of the report.

“Students were allowed to select more than one category,” page three of the report states. “Students were not required to select any category, but in order to receive an award they are required to indicate they identify as a race or ethnicity underrepresented in the Minnesota teacher workforce,” the report states.

Hispanic or Latino is not listed in the table, however.

Black recipients were 44 percent of the successful applicants, representing 103 of the 234 winners.

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However, the same report states only 205 scholarships were disbursed, indicating mixed race individuals won some awards.

The average disbursement was nearly $7,500 per student, according to the report.

Applicants must “affirm to the teacher preparation program or the Office of Higher Education that the applicant is a person of color or American Indian,” according to the text of the current bill.

It is the same as the current criteria for the program.

“Collaborative urban and greater Minnesota educators of color grants,” would get almost $5.5 million under the legislation as well.

Rep. Mary Frances Clardy said her bill “would provide about 500 annual scholarships up to $10,000 as an investment in aspiring BIPOC teachers,” according to a news release published by the state House of Representatives.

Currently there is at least $5 million being considered on the senate side during budget negotiations “for mentoring and retention incentive grants for teachers of color,” according to a legislative news release.

State Senator sponsor Mary Kunesh has not responded in the past month to an emailed request for comment from The Fix.

In comments to other media, Kunesh, a former educator herself, has indicated the purpose of the program is increasing the number of non-white teachers.

“I’ve kind of been hyper-aware of the lack of teachers of color in schools that have large populations of kids of color and how important it is that when they do have somebody that they can relate to, whether culturally or even visually, what a difference that makes,” she said, as reported by The Minnesota Daily.

The student newspaper for the University of Minnesota reported the bill “aims to increase the number of teachers of color across the state by providing funding and reducing barriers to recruiting people of color.”

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IMAGE: Minnesota Office of Higher Education

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Claire Bettag is a student at Saint Mary's College of Notre Dame, where she is studying business administration with a specialization in marketing. Within the campus community, she holds the position of president for both the Turning Point USA chapter and the College Republicans chapter.