One year after the Loudoun chapter of the NAACP called for Loudoun County Public Schools to address the disparity in race-based hiring of teachers, the organization’s leadership said there has been little meaningful change.
According to data Loudoun NAACP President Phillip Thompson acquired through a Freedom of Information Act request, the county’s black student population is 7 percent whereas black teachers only make up 3.54 percent of the teaching population.
Overall, the racial breakdown of teachers has not and still doesn’t reflect the student demographics according to LCPS statistics. In the 2015-16 school year, 88 percent of the teacher workforce was white while 52 percent of the student body was white. For the most recent school year alone, Loudoun’s minority population has increased to 50 percent of the student body and, despite recent efforts from LCPS, the teaching population was 87.37 white percent as of October 2016.
Thompson also said that according to LCPS data, minority teaching applicants made up 19.4 percent of the applicant pool and were hired at an 8.32 rate, while white applicants were hired at a 15.81 percent rate.
Studies show minority teachers are important because teacher’s perceptions of students affect student performance. A 2015 study by NYU professor Hua-Yu Sebastian Cherng found that teachers are more likely to underestimate the academic abilities of minority youth, which was related to minority youth developing lower expectations for their own academic success. By having a more balanced group of minority and white teachers, there is less of a risk of a single perception ruling the group, the study said.
Though Thompson speaks on behalf of the black student and staff population, 43 percent of the student population in Loudoun is made up of Asian, Indian and Hispanic heritages.
The Minority Student Achievement Advisory Committee (MSAAC), which works with LCPS on inclusivity and social awareness issues with students and educators by representing minority students, said diversity in hiring remains a major concern. MSAAC is made up of representatives from each school within LCPS. Representatives include parents, teachers, administrators and even students, to form a committee as diverse as the population it represents.
The MSAAC said it expects LCPS to have and use fair processes to attract, select, hire and retain qualified teachers that can optimize the potential of all LCPS students, but especially minority and underrepresented students, the organization said in an email.
“Though the LCPS has dedicated personnel to hiring a more diverse workforce and has had a small increase in minority hiring this year, the families they serve want to see a much more dramatic improvement in the hiring of diverse personnel,” the organization said.
LCPS officials stress they continue to work on recruiting more minority teaching applicants. Before the 2017 school year, LCPS recruited by traditional means through the HR Department. While LCPS had no Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) violations, a general recruiter and a diversity recruiter were hired in July and August 2016 respectively to address the concerns, said LCPS Public Information Officer Wayde Byard.
LCPS, and all national school districts, file an end of year report with the EEOC which enforces civil rights laws against workplace discrimination. Over the past three years, LCPS has not been contacted by the EEOC about its end of year report, nor has it ever been audited by the agency, Byard said.
The school district also continues to work with Montage Diversity Consultants to analyze recruiting and hiring practices, conduct additional training and identify innovative ways to attract candidates.
Like other organizations, LCPS participates with Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions at job, career fairs and advertising career fairs with minority-based community partners such as NAACP, Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Loudoun County Indian Community, Byard said.
Racial discrimination complaints against LCPS have a decreased in recent years. Byard said LCPS has received no complaints in 2017, while 2016 and 2015 each had one and 2014 and 2013 had two.
He also said more than 500 principals, assistant principals, and other school leaders have participated in unconscious bias workshops that began in the summer of 2016, with more training being planned. Though there has been improvement, minority leaders want to see more.
According to Byard, LCPS experienced a 4 percent increase in minority new teacher hires from the 2016 to the 2017 school year. However, Thompson questioned if an overall four percent increase was realized, why has the teaching workforce only moved down from 88 to 87 percent white. LCPS employs a little more than 10,000 teachers.
Other elements seem to impact a more diverse teacher population in Loudoun. Bruce Rahmani, chair of the county’s Multicultural Advisory Committee said affordable housing is another facet in the struggle to attract more teachers to the county. “It’s very expensive to live in Loudoun,” Rahmani said. “If the affordable housing increases, then you can attract more people.”
Affordable housing or the Affordable Dwelling Unit (ADU) program provides newly constructed, affordable rental and for-sale housing for income-eligible citizens who live and work in the county as the first priority. However, ADUs only enable eligible first time homebuyers with moderate income the opportunity to purchase a newly constructed or resale ADU townhouse or condominium and the inventory of these dwellings is very limited.
Regardless of the NAACP’s current stance or that of MSAAC, it is questionable whether LCPS minority recruiting efforts alone will make an impact without the county’s School Board and Board of Supervisors working in concert to assess, address and resolve whether living and working in Loudoun, on a teacher’s salary, is affordable. This issue is being addressed from coast to coast.
One example includes the Roaring Fork School District in western Colorado, near Aspen’s ski resorts, passed a $122 million school construction bond last year that included $15 million in rental subsidies for teachers. Last November, San Francisco, California voters approved a $310 million housing bond — the first of its kind to win acceptance from voters in nearly 100 years. Nearly $80 million has been set aside to build middle-income rental housing on land owned by school districts and to provide teachers with mortgage subsidies. Los Angeles, the nation’s second largest school district, is working with a non-profit housing developer to build a 66-unit complex for teachers who cannot afford to live in the area. West Virginia and North Carolina are taking action as well.