Data: Teachers Form LI’s Largest Workforce; More Than 88 Percent Are White

Olivia Winslow, Newsday, January 5, 2012

The U.S. Census Bureau’s latest workforce data show that teachers of kindergarten through 12th grade in Nassau and Suffolk counties outnumber workers in any other occupation on Long Island, and more than 88 percent of them are white.

Among the top 10 jobs with the most workers, the only grouping in which minorities comprise the majority Islandwide is the nursing, psychiatric and home health aide category, the census statistics show. In that category, 52.9 percent of the workers were black and 15.7 percent were Hispanic.

Overall, the “worksite” employment data for Nassau and Suffolk show that whites are predominant in higher-skilled, higher-wage jobs, sometimes in percentages exceeding their share of the population and the labor force. Minorities are found in greater percentages than their share of the population and workforce in some lower-skilled, lower-wage jobs.

The census data, called the Equal Employment Opportunity Tabulation, is produced for several federal agencies responsible for monitoring employment practices and enforcing civil rights laws for the nation’s workforce. {snip}

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‘Diversity is essential’

The jobs data for Nassau and Suffolk show K-12 teachers rank first in each county among the 10 job categories with the most workers, with more than 27,000 in each county. {snip}

The data—with the percentage of white teachers in grades K-12 higher than the national average—particularly underscore long-standing concerns among local school leaders and others about the lack of racial and ethnic diversity among teachers on the Island.

“This has been an ongoing concern among superintendents for years,” said Alan Groveman, superintendent of Connetquot schools and immediate past president of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association.

“We’ve made efforts to recruit at city universities, city colleges, from upstate, out of state,” he said. “It’s very difficult to get people who aren’t born and raised on Long Island to move out to the Island for a single teaching position.”

The Island’s high cost of living and lack of affordable housing pose the primary challenges to successful teacher recruitment, he said.

A teaching corps that is racially and ethnically diverse is desirable, several superintendents agreed.

“I think diversity is essential, not only for students to have the opportunity to learn with all different types of educators, but it’s more reflective of the world they’re going to enter,” Roosevelt schools Superintendent Robert-Wayne Harris said.

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Non-Hispanic whites were 69 percent of the Island’s 2.83 million people in the 2010 Census, and Hispanics were 15.6 percent, blacks 9.3 percent and Asians 5.4 percent.

Nationally, 79 percent of K-12 teachers are non-Hispanic white, 9.3 percent are black, 5.2 percent are Hispanic white, 2.6 percent are other Hispanic, and 2.2 percent are Asian, according to Newsday’s analysis of the Census Bureau’s data.

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Recruitment efforts

As for the dominance of whites in the teaching profession on Long Island, Rockville Centre Superintendent William Johnson said his district has sought more racial balance among its teachers, to no avail.

“When we have an opening, for whatever reason, we get no minorities who apply,” he said. “We just don’t.”

Recruiting efforts in other areas of the country, such as Atlanta, haven’t been effective, he said. “I don’t have a specific answer for you except to say that we in the past have gone to other areas of the country and tried to recruit from out of state and nobody wants to come here,” Johnson said. “They can’t live on a starting teacher’s salary” on Long Island.

Lorna Lewis, the superintendent of the PlainviewOld Bethpage school district, agreed with Johnson about the difficulties in recruiting teachers to come to the Island. She also echoed his concerns that the education pipeline producing certified teachers may be lacking in diversity.

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