Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

State Board Raises Concerns Over Diversity In Teacher Prep Programs

    The State Board of Education on Wednesday failed to renew accreditation to the teacher training program at Oakland City University, after board members raised concern about a lack of diversity.

    The discussion started with the board discussing the racial makeup of faculty in the university’s teacher training program. It ended with an examination of how far a state agency can go to influence hiring decisions, based on race.

    The small, religious college currently only employs white, male staff in that program.

    “I think it’s a critical issue that we have diversity in colleges of education so that students there, preparing, are culturally diverse,” said David Freitas, a SBOE member.

    Freitas wanted to renew the school’s accreditation, on the condition that they diversify within three years. The board voted 4-2  in favor of renewing the university’s accreditation with that condition, but state law requires six “yes votes” to pass any action.

    Board member Vince Bertram voted against renewing the accreditation with those conditions. He said he values diversity, but making future accreditation reliant on who the school hires would set a dangerous precedent.

    “I am very concerned about diversity, but my concern is putting accreditation in the middle of this,” Bertram said. “We can’t say, ‘We’re going to hold this over your head until you make a very specific hire.'”

    Freidas countered that claim saying the board does hold a responsibility to value certain characteristics in programs they accredit, even if they fall beyond national criteria. Although Oakland City University’s staff diversity was noted as an area that needed improvement, they recently received renewed national accreditation.

    SBOE’s legal counsel noted that denying accreditation because of a perceived lack of racial diversity could open a “slippery slope.”

    State Superintendent Glenda Ritz agreed.

    “The hiring of an actual person is probably not part of the actual accreditation process,” Ritz said. “I think that’s where the debate will be at our next meeting.”

    At Wednesday’s meeting, the board also approved nearly $8.7 million to four formerly failing schools and $5 million in loans to charter schools. The charter school loans can be used for “startup costs” including facilities improvement, instruction, administrative, technology, and debt service.

    “I really feel we need more funding to public education,” said Ritz, a longtime public schools proponent. “I really would have preferred that [money] used in another manner.”



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