"We have to go beyond salaries, benefits and working conditions," President English said. She stated that opportunities for professional development and collaboration with other teachers also needed to be a part of contract negotiations. The conference focused on the importance of diversifying the nation’s teaching workforce. Almost 80 percent of the country's more than 6 million teachers are white, and 77 percent are female.
At the same time, however, an increasing number of the nation's school districts are predominantly black and Latino. Diversifying the teaching workforce, President English said, will help increase the success of minority children in school, and boost their self-esteem. "The issue of diversity in teaching has not received nearly enough attention," President English said.
She spoke on a panel that also featured David Johns, executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, and Ivory Toldson, a senior research analyst with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and a professor at Howard University.
The meeting, co-sponsored by AFT and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, focused on the recruitment and retention of minority teachers, as well as on ways to train teachers of all backgrounds to serve diverse classrooms.