An Update on the Massachusetts Education Diversity Act: What Comes Next?
By: Manny Cruz, Senior Policy Fellow
For those who follow policy legislation, passing a bill is a victory. However, those entrenched in this process know the intricacies and difficulties of getting a bill past the finish line, and enacted. It takes time. It takes collaboration. And more than anything else, it takes tenacity.
One of the most important pieces of legislation that we at Latinos for Education, alongside the Educator Diversity Coalition, have brought to the table, and continue to advocate for is the Educator Diversity Act (Which has been filed again by State Representative Alice Peisch, and State Senator Jason Lewis). This bill could, and one day will, serve as the national model for diversifying the teacher pipeline through state-level policy. In  the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) set a goal of increasing the percentage of diverse educators from 8% to 25% by 2030 In the last two years we have seen some forward movement from 8% to 11%, but we know that to create a sizable difference, we need policies that help districts engage in more meaningful change. The Educator Diversity Act will give DESE and local districts the policy tools needed to achieve this commendable goal while addressing some of the most pertinent barriers for educators of color.
The Joint Committee on Education reported the Educator Diversity Act favorably, and the bill was combined and presented to the House of Representatives as part of an economic development package. Unfortunately, the economic development bill was derailed temporarily by the implications of a 1980’s tax law which effectively put the EDA on hold.
However, there are so many things to be proud of and many wins we did see throughout the last legislative cycle. We built an extensive list of champions within the legislature for the Educator Diversity Act. In total we had over 60 co-sponsors help the bill move through the process and get it so close to the finish line. The diversification of the educator pipeline was also listed as a top education priority of the Healey/Driscoll Administration.
The Educator Diversity Act Coalition, which we led, has continued to grow, with more than 50 partner members and organizations who support the initiative. Throughout the legislative session we engaged in 250 actions including legislative visits, support letters, and media engagements throughout the bill. And more importantly, we gained meaningful budget commitments from the legislature and Governor towards educator diversity including the adoption of $15 million for the Tomorrow’s Educator Scholarship & the Educational Debt Payment Assistance, which will assist educators with the cost of attending college, provide financial assistance to educators through scholarships, and address the repayment of loans.
So, overall, what does this mean? It means this is just a minor speed bump in the bill’s journey to passage.
We are confident because we need to make this act a reality.
- We need to create new pathways for teachers to become licensed educators by providing alternative, yet equivalent, credentials that would be reviewed and approved by the Massachusetts Department of Education, because data shows us this is an effective approach for training and recruiting talented educators of color.
- We need to create new ways for school districts to measure and improve their hiring and retention policies, especially for educators of color. This could include simple, innovative dashboard tools to measure the diversity in our state (how many teachers of color, which school are they located, are there more in the pipeline, etc.) It could also include the hiring of new positions, such as a Chief Equity Officer, to oversee hiring, training, and retention policies within our schools.
- We need to create grant funding to ensure that every aspiring teacher of color does not feel they can’t pursue their dream of being an educator because of financial barriers.
The impact of this bill would be monumental. We know that Latino students who have had at least one Latino teacher are more likely to graduate high school and enroll in college. In our current environment, where teachers are leaving the profession at a higher rate than ever before, it’s critical we are investing in the future of our educators, especially educators of color.
On behalf of our organization and our partners, we would like to extend our thanks for the continued investment. In particular, we would like to thank Senator Michael Rodrigues, State Representative Aaron Michlewitiz, House Leader Frank Moran, and Speaker of the House Representative Ronald Mariano for their ongoing support of this bill. Also, thank you to State Representative Alice Peisch and State Senator Jason Lewis, the education committee co-chairs, and sponsors of the bill, for their leadership on this issue and commitment to strengthening the pipeline that currently exists for educators of color to enter the profession. Last but not least, we would like to thank the more than 60 co-sponsors who have lent their names to this important piece of legislation last session.
This is not the end of the fight, just one stop. We will continue to partner with the new legislature and are hopeful that the Educator Diversity Act will receive attention and potential resolution in the upcoming session, which will finally create an educator workforce that is as diverse as its student population. Stay tuned for more updates along the way — adelante!
Manny Cruz is the Senior Policy Fellow at Latinos for Education where he previously served as the Massachusetts Advocacy Director from 2020-2022 and led the organization’s efforts to close the digital divide, scale up early college and was the senior policy advisor to the Educator Diversity Act Coalition. He is also a Massachusetts State Representative, an elected school committee member, entrepreneur, and community leader in the city of Salem. Manny previously served as the legislative aide for former State Representative Juana B. Matias (D, Lawrence) and State Representative Paul F. Tucker (D, Vice Chair, Salem) where specialized in education and immigration policy. In 2022, he was elected as the first Afro-Latino State Representative for the 7th Essex District-Salem. He serves on the boards of LEAP for Education, The Massachusetts Alliance for Early College and Plummer Youth Promise. Manny graduated with honors from Northeastern University with a B.S in Political Science and as a La Comunidad Latina En Acción Scholar.