By Andre Senior - Fox KTVU

For many students, the reflection of the face staring back at them in the classroom can be indicative of success, according to California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. He supports Assembly Bill 520.

“The research has shown us for years that there are benefits to students of color when there’s at least just one educator of color on a campus,” Thurmond said Tuesday.

AB 520, or California Diversifying the Teacher Workforce Grant Program, would set aside $15 million to recruit and retain male teachers of color.

Department of Education’s numbers show students of color make up 75% of California’s student population, yet Black male teachers make up just 1% of that workforce.

“This demographic mismatch can drive inequities in educational and academic outcomes,” said Assemblymember Mike Gipson, who authored the bill.

Leo Casey, deputy director of the Albert Shanker Institute, said a study that his foundation conducted found that diversifying public teaching is very slow, which in turn has been hurting students of color, with one segment of that population being hit especially hard.

“For African American students, boys in particular, one of the things that we know is that they need to believe that their teacher really cares about them as an individual, moreso than other students,” said Casey.

The study also found that Black male teachers don’t feel valued and under-supported, leading them to give up their careers more often than white teachers do.

It’s an issue the backers of AB 520 hopes to change.

“I firmly believe that the importance of proper and represented diversity cannot be overstated,” said Micah Ali, president of the Compton Unified School District, who also publically announced support for the bill Tuesday alongside Thurmond and Gipson.

Research by the Palo Alto-based Learning Policy Institute found that teachers of color not only help close achievement gaps for students of color, but are also highly rated by students of all races.

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