A grassroots organization dedicated to increasing the number of Black and brown teachers for Black and brown students, the Center for Black Educator Development, has received $3.1 million to launch a national educational justice campaign.

The center will launch the Black Teacher Pipeline and the Black Educators of Excellence Fellowship, a program in partnership with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), to recruit and support Black educators across the country.

“This $3.1 million investment will support our national efforts to expand our paid teacher apprenticeship programming for Black (and Brown) youth, with a particular emphasis on young Black men. These apprenticeships are grounded in Black pedagogy and instructional practices,” said Sharif El-Mekki, CEO of the Center for Black Educator Development.

“Hiring Black high school and college students to learn the art, skill and mindset of the most effective educators supports long term growth and development, as well as supports the diversification of our field. Having more Black teachers will elevate the profession and yield substantial outcomes — something that is sorely needed.”

A statement from the center cites statistics that show Black teachers in front of Black students mean more educational success for those students, as it decreases dropout rates and increases college enrollment of Black students “by more than 30%.”

The statement continued that the funds the center has received will allow them to address a national shortage of Black teachers, noting that “while more than 15% of all students are Black, only 7% of all teachers are.” With their direct programming, the center aims to bring “at least 21,000 Black students into the teaching pipeline and 9,100 teachers into the profession over its initial 12-year program in 10 communities across the country.”

El-Mekki added that some of the existing programs that the funds will help include the Liberation Academy and the Freedom Schools Literacy Academy.

“Our programming that targets Black high school and college youth interested in educational justice and teaching includes Liberation Academy (during the day programming that offer sequential courses like our LeCount-Catto high school curriculum and other programming in partnership with high schools,” he said.

“Our Freedom Schools Literacy Academy model is based on out-of-school time support for the same targeted students. It includes after school and summer teaching opportunities that allows for clinical and experiential opportunities for Black (and Brown) high school and college students to teach students in first to third grade.”

The $3.1 million was provided by a collective of organizations including the Laura and Gary Lauder Family Venture Philanthropy Fund, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, Spring Point Partners, and Alice Walton through the Walton Family Foundation and Education Leaders of Color.

El-Mekki said $1.5 million was granted by the Lauder Fund, and that they were challenged to raise matching funds by the organization.

“Our family was incredibly compelled by the research showing the educational benefits of same race teachers combined with the huge missed opportunity presented by the under-representation of Black teachers in our nation’s teaching corps,” said Eliana Lauder of the Fund. “We are honored and humbled to support the Center for Black Educator Development’s efforts to allow more students to experience the benefits that come with having a teacher who might share their own lived experiences and unique perspectives. We hope to support mentorships that will long outlive us.”

Walton agreed, stating that “In order for our education system to truly be inclusive, educator diversity is critically important.”

The UNCF will be partnering with the center through scholarships and fellowships for the Black Educators of Excellence Fellowship Program and will participate in joint fundraising efforts.

“UNCF looks forward to partnering with The Center for Black Educator to innovate and grow a more diverse educator pipeline,” said Sekou Biddle, UNCF vice president of advocacy and student professional development programs.

“We believe that in pairing professional development with financial supports, we can assist many more young people in making significant impacts in their communities through leadership in classrooms which in turn improve academic successes of Black students.”

El-Mekki said early funders for Freedom Schools were Los Angeles Clippers’ owner Steve Ballmer; Tobias Harris of the Philadelphia 76ers and Spring Point (a youth development group); and invites interested partners and supporters to learn more about the issues facing Black educators by tuning in to their recently launched YouTube Live show, “Building the Black Educator Pipeline.”

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