A Brief History of the Coalition
The Coalition was created in November 2015 by seven teacher educators from public and private colleges and universities along with two urban school district administrators who are committed to quality in teacher preparation and concerned about barriers that especially impact persons of color who want to enter and stay in the teaching profession. These barriers are especially problematic for adult learners and non-licensed employees of color who want to be well-prepared licensed teachers of diverse E-12 learners. They are systemic barriers that require changes in policy and institutions along with major financial investments. At this time, we were inspired by 2015 Policy Briefs published by the MN Education Equity Partnership (MnEEP) and Educators 4 Excellence (E4E) that had common findings and recommendations.
The Coalition expanded on December 11, 2015 when 40 people from various institutions and organizations in the state gathered to affirm the Coalition’s goal, 5-point Platform, and generate ideas of a Summit to inform the upcoming legislative session. The notion of the summit turned into a “Call for Action” with more than 200 people from dozens of organizations and institutions from throughout the state coming together on February 6, 2016 around a common goal to double the current number of teachers of color and ensure that 20% of candidates in teacher preparation are of color and American Indian by 2020. The Coalition worked to draft and see a bill pass that revised several existing state statutes to ensure that all students have “equitable access to effective and diverse teachers” who reflect student diversity in schools. The success of the February 6 event led to a Bush Foundation grant to host a conference August 10-12, 2016 for nearly 250 current and aspiring teachers who are of color and American Indian. In November 2016, a Core Steering Committee with a majority people of color formed to provide direction to work of the Coalition. In December 2016, we celebrated our first birthday at Augsburg University.
During the 2017 legislative session with the crucial support of the state ethnic and Indian Affairs councils, the Coalition drafted the Increase Teachers of Color Act that was passed and expanded several existing programs to include teachers of color as a shortage area and include modest increased appropriations along with creating several new programs. The Coalition held its second conference for current and aspiring TOCAIT in August 2017. During the 2017-18 school year to support TOCAIT retention, we offered micro-grants for teams of two or more TOCAIT to attend equity conferences together, and held a series of Affinity Group Dinner Dialogues. By November 2017, there were over 1100 individuals from 150 schools, districts, institutions, organizations and communities who have joined the Coalition. During the 2018 legislative session, the Coalition drafted a bill with bipartisan support and kept attention on the issue, but the bill ultimately wasn’t passed.
During the 2019 legislative session, we had success passing comprehensive updated versions of the Increase Teachers of Color Act through the House E12 and Higher Education committees with more than 50 organizations endorsing the bills we drafted with extensive stakeholder input, but we did not get hearings in the Senate despite our bills having both Republican and Democrat authors. Nonetheless, a few key policy changes to that we proposed to existing grant programs (i.e. Collaborative Urban and Greater MN Educators of Color grants, Student Teacher Candidate grants, and Teacher Mentorship & Retention grants) were approved through Conference Committee, including a small increases in funding for these programs.
During the 2019-2020 school year, we held a policy forum in October at the Minnesota Humanities Center in collaboration with the State Ethnic and Indian Affairs Councils and MnEEP. In December we celebrated our 4th birthday with a luncheon held at Equity Alliance MN. In February, we held an affinity dinner and showing of the award-winning documentary "Love them First" in collaboration with the MN Department of Education. We returned to the 2020 Legislative Session with optimism that our updated versions of the Increase Teachers of Color Act would receive support in the House and Senate and we might get some additional funding due to the budget surplus that existed in January. Then the COVID-19 pandemic came and the Legislature shut down the day we were supposed to have our Higher Ed bill heard in the House. Then George Floyd was murdered and a racial reckoning was called for by thousands of Minnesotans of various races along with millions around the country and world. Many TOCAIT faced even more burdens than their white counterparts trying to manage teaching and living through two pandemics, and racial disparities in all sectors of society have become more apparent to millions more people.
As of December 2020 when the Coalition marks 5 years of existence and advocacy work, the Coalition now unites more than 1,550 people from throughout Minnesota including students, parents, teacher candidates, teacher educators, paraprofessionals, teachers, and administrators from urban, suburban and rural area schools and districts. In these polarized times, the Coalition continues to unite Republican and Democratic legislators, school board members and other elected officials from throughout MN, as well as a range of community-based and education organizations in support of bills we have drafted.
If you aren’t yet a member, join us to support and make meaningful change needed to help close unacceptable, persistent opportunity and achievement gaps that are among the largest in the United States--the economic development and social fabric of our state needs all students to be successful in school and life. TOCAIT are central to that success of students who are of color, American Indian and white.