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Law focuses on minority teachers


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Iowa schools are looking to become more diverse with a teacher-diversity bill signed into law on Tuesday.

Gov. Chet Culver signed the legislation, which aims to increase the number of minorities in teaching positions around the state.

The bill will require representatives of the Department of Education, along with area education agencies and private and public colleges and universities, to study opportunities for recruiting and retaining ethnic minority teachers.

Regent Robert Downer said diversity in Iowa schools has been a focus for the state Board of Regents for quite some time.

“The matter of diversity of the student body, faculty and staff is something the Board of Regents covers on a regular basis,” he said.

Three specific issues will be examined by the representatives:

• ways to encourage minority students to enter teaching
• methods to recruit minority students to an Iowa college or university teaching-preparatory program
• strategies to increase retention of minority teachers in Iowa

“To help strengthen this ethic of acceptance, and to help educate our young people, it is my privilege to sign House File 2432, a bill whose goal is train and recruit more individuals from minority backgrounds into the teaching profession,” Culver said in a statement.

The regents are responsible for supporting research on ways to support higher numbers of minority teachers. The findings will be reported to the Legislature in January 2011.

Robert Donley, the regents’ executive director, said the board — as well as other stakeholders — will identify “gaps” in Iowa’s diversity and formulate strategies to address the issues.

While the group has not collaborated yet, Donley said, it will be a “statewide effort.”
“Colleges and universities play a critical role, as do the regents,” he said.

University of Iowa officials said they have made strides toward a more diverse faculty and staff.
UI spokesman Tom Moore noted importance of diversity on the university campus.

“At the UI, our leadership is committed to diversity,” he said, and diversity among instructors is linked to increased student performance. “It enhances the education experience for our students.”

Downer shared Moore’s sentiment, noting a speech by former President Bill Clinton in which he said he wanted a Cabinet that “looked like America,” with all groups represented.

“That’s part of the experience that we’re trying to create at universities,” Downer said.

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