The New Jersey Department of Education and Rowan University on Tuesday announced an initiative called "Men of Color Hope Achievers," designed to recruit and retain male educators from minority or disadvantaged backgrounds in the state's K-12 workforce, possibly as early as this September.

A release from NJDOE said data provided by schools for the 2020-21 academic year indicated that 59% of the student population of the Garden State are children of color, while just 17% of teachers are people of color.

Gov. Phil Murphy's Fiscal Year 2022 budget allocated $550,000 to launch the first year of the two-year pilot program championed by state Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex, and Senate Majority Whip Troy Singleton, D-Burlington.

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"Research shows that increasing the number of educators of color in our classrooms can have a positive impact on the academic success of all students," Ruiz and Singleton said in a joint statement. "For many students, seeing educators that look like them allows them to remain interested in learning and encouraged to consider teaching in the future."

Ruiz and Singleton's comments were echoed by Acting Commissioner of Education Angelica Allen-McMillan, who in the NJDOE release cited research demonstrating that students of color taught by at least one educator of color had higher test scores and graduation rates.

Rowan's recruitment target is 25 participants per year, who will be licensed to teach in school districts involved with the program. NJDOE said it will work with the university to establish a network of mentors for participants.

Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com

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