On Friday, the U.S. Department of Education announced it will provide $8 million in grants to colleges and universities in an effort to diversify the teacher workforce.
The funding will be available through the Hawkins Program, established in 2008 in honor of Augustus F. Hawkins, the first Black politician to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from west of the Mississippi River. The program was designed to support high-quality teacher preparation programs at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs), and tribal colleges and universities (TCUs).
This year marks the first time that Congress has approved funding for the Hawkins Program since it was created more than a decade ago, according to an Education Department news release.
“At a time when we need to do more to support our teachers and the educator profession, Hawkins Centers of Excellence will help increase the number of well-prepared and qualified teachers, including teachers of color, in our workforce,” said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona in the release. “We know that teachers of color benefit not only students of color, but all students. When students of color can see their backgrounds and experiences reflected in their teachers, we see higher levels of student achievement and engagement in school, and more students aspiring to be teachers themselves one day.”
More than 50 percent of public school students in 2017-2018 were students of color, according to the release, but only 21 percent of teachers were teachers of color.
“HBCUs, TCUs and MSIs prepare a disproportionate share of teachers of color,” the release states. “These colleges are uniquely positioned to recruit, prepare, and place teachers who will provide culturally and linguistically relevant teaching in underserved and hard-to-staff schools.”
The department will release more information on how schools can apply for the program in the coming days.