State Rep. Jim Wilson

State Rep. Jim Wilson, R-Salida, speaks in favor of a bill to examine barriers that keep men and women of color out of the teacher workforce in Colorado.

More than 2 out of 3 teachers are white women, which doesn't completely reflect the diversity of the enrollment  they're expected to reach. Colorado lawmakers want to know if there's a way to help balance the scales.

House Bill 1007 would create a working group to look at the system to see if there's a way to break down barriers to increase diversity in K-12 education.

The bill passed the Senate Education Committee 4-0 Thursday, after passing out of the House 50-13 on Feb. 19. The bill comes with only a $7,400 price tag to reimburse the Department of Higher Education to do that work and deliver a report back to the legislature next year.

The bipartisan bill is sponsored in the upper chamber by Republican Sen. Paul Lundeen of Monument and Democratic Sen. Rhonda Fields of Aurora. It was introduced in the House by two Democrats, Reps. James Coleman of Denver and Bri Buentello of Pueblo.

"The bill provides new information that helps us understand the success of teacher prep programs," Lundeen said Thursday evening. "The bill requires a first time pass rate. That is meaningful in evaluating which programs are struggling and which are strong."

The Senate Democratic Press Office said 46% of elementary school teaching applicants pass the state licensing test on the first try, including 75% of white teaching candidate, while 54% of Hispanic candidates pass the first time. Only 38% of black teaching candidates do the same.

The bill, if it makes it into law, could yield strategies for preparation, retention and recruitment of of a workforce with more race and gender diversity, Fields said.

“It’s critical that our diverse population of students see themselves reflected in their educators," said Sen. Rhonda Fields. "I’m proud to sponsor this bill to identify barriers to success as well as ways we can ensure better representation in our classrooms.”

When the bill was debated on the House floor, Rep. Jim Wilson, a Republican from Salida, pointed out the larger problem.

"We're talking about diversity in this bill, but the challenge, colleagues, is getting people to go into the educator workforce," said the retired teacher, principle and superintendent, before voting for the bill. 

He added, "We just need to get young people into that workforce, period." 

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