Boston Public Schools has 230 teacher vacancies as first day of school looms

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Boston Public Schools has less than one month to hire 230 more teachers, particularly teachers of color, advocates say, in a district whose students are predominantly Black or brown.

At a School Committee meeting Wednesday night, Acting Superintendent Drew Echelson said BPS had hired 996 teachers, had 116 in progress and had 230 vacancies before school begins on Sept. 8 for grades 1 to 12  and on Sept. 12 for kindergarten.

Even before the current shortage, the number of teachers over the past school year fell to 4,256 from 4,595 in 2020-2021 — the first drop in at least five years, according to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

“We did see more teachers leave the profession over the past year, whether it was because of things like lack of childcare, student loan debt or a general disregard and disrespect for educators,” said Jessica Tang, president of the Boston Teachers Union. “And when people leave, that puts more pressure on the remaining faculty, who then feel more burnout and stress, causing many of them to leave too. That is not a cycle we want to be in.”

Sharon Hinton, who has taught middle and high school, as well as college, and who founded Black Teachers Matter, said it’s particularly important to hire teachers of color in a district in which 43% of students are Hispanic and 32% are Black, according to BPS data.

Although the department keeps a racial breakdown of staff, it does not have one strictly for faculty. BPS officials would not say whether they have such a breakdown.

“Across the country, there’s a problem (hiring teachers, including those of color),” Hinton said, “But in a city with more colleges per square mile than anywhere in the globe, why aren’t there more Black teachers?”

A 2018 Johns Hopkins University study found that Black students who had just one Black teacher by third grade were 13% more likely to enroll in college, while those who had two Black teachers were 32% more likely.

But as a Black teacher in a school diversity workshop, Hinton said, she sometimes found herself in the uncomfortable position of being the “Black poster child” and felt she needed to be careful what she said, lest she be perceived as the stereotypical “angry Black woman.”

In a statement Wednesday, district officials said they “are committed to recruiting, hiring and retaining educators that reflect the students and families we serve. We continue to invest in diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and prioritize critical efforts that include annual goal-setting at the school and district level and supports to ensure teachers pass the required tests for licensure, in addition to providing a number of educator pipeline programs that prepare paraprofessionals, career-changers, and BPS alum for new opportunities in the district.”

Earlier this year, a bill backing educator diversity was favorably reported out by the state Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education but did not go beyond that, although it’s expected to be reintroduced during the Legislature’s next session.

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