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Close up serious face of African American teacher in the classroom

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Black male educators are feeling the brunt of the teacher shortage crisis.

In a recent ABC News report, nearly 20 Black male teachers and former public school educators confessed that they felt “underappreciated and overstretched” in the classroom. According to the article, some Black men are leaving the educational sector for good due to the low salaries offered in the field. 

Dr. Phelton Moss, a lecturer at American University and senior policy advisor to Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, spoke about the financial hardship he faced while teaching in Greenwood, Mississippi. 

Despite winning multiple awards for his stellar teaching earlier in his career, Moss struggled to live off a $32,000 salary and was forced to take out “short-term, high-interest ‘payday’ loans’” to keep himself afloat.

“As a man, I didn’t want to call home and be like, ‘Hey — I can’t take care of my bills,” the professor told ABC News.“If I was able to make more money as a Black man and also be able to take on a leadership position while in the classroom, I would have stayed in the classroom a lot longer. Our compensation, our incentive structure in this country, does not yield this kind of work.”

In addition to increased workload, some Black male teachers feel like schools have placed “unrealistic expectations” on them. Respondents said that they felt like they were forced to be mentors and “father figures” to young men at their schools. 


What’s being done to help Black male teachers?

In 2022, Moss worked alongside Rep. Wilson to create the American Teacher Act, a bill that aims to increase the starting salary for teachers to $60,000. Sadly, Republicans in the House voted against the bill because they believed states should be in control of the issue. The decision came just one year after Wilson and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton of the D.C Commission on Black Men and Boys, worked together to create the U.S. Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys (CSSBMB). The program strives to help Black men find educational opportunities. 

According to Norton, only 1% of public school teachers are Black men. “That is infinitesimal and it’s harmful to children,” Norton added.

As of October 2022, public schools have had at least one teacher vacancy, the National Center for Educational Statistics noted. In addition to teaching vacancies, 83 percent of public schools reported having experienced challenges purchasing materials for the classrooms due to supply-chain disruptions during the 2022-23 school year. 

Schools in low-income and high-poverty neighborhoods are being slammed by the ongoing crisis. Limited federal data shows that schools with a high-minority student body were more likely to have reported vacancies in October of last year.


Funds leftover from The American Rescue Plan could help.

Moss hopes that lawmakers will do something to increase salaries for Black male teachers and improve the gloomy conditions. He proposed that officials could tap into leftover money from the American Rescue Plan’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund. The program was launched to help schools across the United States during the pandemic, but according to the educational advocate, some schools still have access to the funding through September 2024. ABC News noted that “about 55% of the overall $190-plus billion had been spent as of this summer.”

Moss believes that allocating some of the funds to after-school programs could help to inspire more Black men to enter the teaching field.

“It gets them [Black men] closer to the school building, which in turn begins to wet their appetite and [they say], ‘Hmm, I may consider teaching,’” Moss, a TFA alum, added. “There’s something about running an after-school chess club, there’s something about coaching a summer league basketball team, there’s something about that experience that actually gets Black men into teaching.”


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