Duanecia’s Testimony: Improve Teacher Diversity & Equity in School Discipline

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My name is Duanecia Evans Clark, and I am the executive vice president of strategy at FaithActs for Education. We are Connecticut’s only Black-led, faith-based, education advocacy nonprofit. We are people of faith building power to get our children the education they deserve. I am here today to speak about HB 5436, an act concerning educator certification, and SB 380, an act concerning school discipline. 

We must create teacher certification processes that focus on recruiting and retaining effective and diverse teacher forces. 

We must also ensure that discipline is fair, developmentally appropriate, and determined by a teaching staff that reflects the student body it serves.

That’s what these bills do. These bills address wrongs I’ve been fighting to right for more than 15 years.

Local and national efforts have served to diversify the teacher workforce AND ensure teachers are trained on equitable school discipline practices that will end the inequitable exclusion of children of color from our nation’s schools. I am proud to be a leader in this space and a steward of strong outcomes for students of color. The impact of exclusion permeates every sector in every part of this country. Connecticut is not unique, yet, we have the opportunity to lead the charge.

This work is deeply intertwined: schools cannot implement equitable discipline without also ensuring teacher and staff diversity.

It is not enough to put equitable discipline policies in place if our schools will lack the cultural competence necessary to implement them.

It is not enough to diversify the teacher workforce only for teachers of color to enter schools forced to uphold racist discipline practices.

We need to do both.

According to recent statistics, most districts in our state – 60% – have less than 5% educators of color. Yet,  students of color make up more than half of the statewide student body.

Further, rigorous national studies show ALL students – regardless of race – have better academic outcomes when they’ve learned from a Black teacher during their elementary school education.

Our people have traveled to the Capitol since 2018 to testify and fight for minority teacher recruitment. On behalf of the thousands of congregants that FaithActs represents, I would like to thank this body for your bold actions to make this a reality throughout the years. The future of our school system is dependent on our ability to attract teachers to the field, especially as we endure statewide and nationwide teacher shortages.

It’s time to improve our certification processes to attract the best and most diverse teaching force we can. It’s time to make sure our teaching forces are equipped with equitable policies and practices so that our children are not pushed out but instead nurtured to thrive. It’s time to support  HB 5436 and SB 380.

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