A Minnesota school district will soon exclusively give non-white teachers extra pay to become mentors to other minority teachers.
The Mankato School Board earlier this month voted unanimously to provide "additional stipends" to non-white teachers who become mentors to other non-white colleagues. Additionally, Minnesota-based Alpha News reported that the new policy will also see the district "placing American Indian educators at sites with other American Indian educators and educators of color at sites with other educators of color.”
The school board claims that this new policy will "increase opportunity for collegial support" for teachers who are black, indigenous, and for other people of color. They hope to increase retention rates among these demographics.
“Retention strategies may include providing financial incentives for teachers of color and teachers who are American Indian to work in the school or district for at least five years and placing American Indian educators at sites with other American Indian educators and educators of color at sites with other educators of color to reduce isolation and increase opportunity for collegial support,” the policy reads.
Before the vote on Dec. 7, board members denied that the policy of placing teachers at different work sites based on their race would amount to segregation.
“When you’re one [minority] of a [white] majority it can be very isolating and lonely. To have a support system in place for them is not to segregate them, it is absolutely to support them,” board member Erin Roberts said. "My biggest fear is that we are going to lose talent because of the feeling of being unsupported by those within our district."
"It’s not about trying to throw the few [BIPOC] individuals we have into one building. It’s about showing them they aren’t alone,” she continued.
"It creates global citizens at the end of the day," Vice Chairman Kenneth Reid added.
According to Alpha News, the school board based the language of the policy on state law that says "school districts must develop teacher mentoring programs" and that districts may offer "additional stipends as incentives to mentors of color or [those] who are American Indian."
The outlet observes that while state law requires school districts to develop mentoring programs, they have the option to leave out race-based stipends, yet the board chose to include a racial element in the policy anyway.
That racial component is drawing opposition from at least one state lawmaker.
State Rep. Jeremy Munson (R) blasted the policy in a Facebook post, calling the state law it is based on "racist."
"Our largest local school district just voted to pay people differently, not on merit, or by the content of their character, but based solely on the color of their skin. This is allowed and encouraged under a revision to Minnesota state Statute 122A.70," Munson wrote.
"I voted against this legislation. I called it racist when we debated it and believe it is wrong, racist, and unconstitutional to pay people more money or less money based solely on the color of their skin," he said.
This is not the first time the Mankato School Board has caused controversy. In October, Chairwoman Jodi Sapp was criticized for limiting the ability of parents to speak at school board meetings and requiring that they state where they live if they wanted to speak.