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The Newcomer Education Coalition has a lengthy list of ideas about how to tackle the shortage of visible minorities working in the public school system.
They include reviewing how visible minority teachers are recruited and retained, reserving school board seats for immigrant and refugee trustees and creating both equity enrolment targets at universities and newcomer transition programs to increase the pool of racialized educator candidates.
But first, the group says school divisions and education faculties need to collect data to determine how vast the gaps are.
On Thursday, newcomer advocates launched a state of equity in education report that details the available self-identification data, and lack thereof, on visible minorities in the education system.
All but one of the six Winnipeg divisions declined to provide numbers when surveyed by the coalition, citing the fact they do not ask employees to self-identify if they are a visible minority.
Only the Winnipeg School Division offered some statistics from 2017-18, which show 10 per cent of its permanent teacher roster identifies as a visible minority. That percentage increases among term teachers (26 per cent), substitute teachers (20 per cent) and educational assistants (24 per cent).
At more senior levels, the numbers decrease: no superintendents or senior administrators identify as visible minorities, while seven per cent of principals do and 15 per cent of vice principals do.
During a virtual press conference Thursday, Kathleen Vyrauen of the Newcomer Education Coalition said one of the key calls in the report is on divisions to create modern employment equity policies and review recruitment, hiring, retention and promotion practices.
A longtime advocate for equity in education, Seven Oaks trustee Derek Dabee said employers often feel uncomfortable asking staff to disclose ethnic identities.
"It’s not out of line to ask people to volunteer (to give that information)," he said. "We have to be intentional and plan and assess and measure annually."
Simply hiring more racialized teachers is only the start of addressing systemic racism in education, said Suni Matthews, a retired school administrator who worked on the report. Matthews said racialized students need to see themselves both as teachers and in course content.
"We need to ensure that all staff have an understanding and knowledge of anti-racism.… They need to examine and know and learn about issues of power and privilege," she said, adding anti-racist training is critical.
The report, expected to become annual, mirrors a similar document put out by the Winnipeg Indigenous Executive Circle this week. Both documents were created in partnership with the Community Education Development Association.
Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.
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