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Hillsborough Schools equity report shows large gap between Hispanic faculty, staff and students

Posted at 5:31 AM, Sep 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-23 08:43:04-04

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Hillsborough County Schools voted to approve their 2019-2020 school year educational equity report on Tuesday. It covers an array of issues like gender equity in athletics, and single-sex schools and classes.

But, ABC Action News paid particular attention to the three-page section on employment equity.

Hillsborough Equity Numbers by wftsweb

The numbers show the majority of district students, 36.47%, are Hispanic. But when you break down the faculty positions by race, Hispanic people are the minority in every single category, excluding the "other" column. Only 12.02% principals, 5.27% of counselors and 13.05% of teachers identify as Hispanic.

When it comes to their white counterparts, there's no less than 60% across the board. White students make up 32.28% of the district.

We talked with Taina Benitez, a former educator who now runs non-profit Teach With Love. The goal is to help underrepresented teachers and students.

Benitez says she dropped out of high school in ninth grade after repeatedly being placed in ESOL classes. She says she was proficient in the English language by middle school. Benitez says no one in her schools looked like her, and she feels like having representation would've helped her.

Benitez cited a study saying more representation could break this cycle.

"Having fewer dropouts, they had higher test scores and were more likely to graduate from high school and even more likely to succeed in college as well when they had teachers who look like them," Benitez said.

In the latest data from the Florida Department of Education, statewide 4.8% of Hispanic boys drop out of school. That number decreases to 3.1% when it comes to Hispanic girls. Hillsborough county's overall drop out rate is 2.9%.

Along with breaking down the numbers, the district also has to have a plan to close the gap. Hillsborough leaders said their biggest priority was to recruit, hire and retain Hispanic educators. Out of more than 14,347 teachers, only 1,872 are Hispanic.

The update focuses on how the district plans to increase the number of diverse applicants. The target number is 30% of the applicant pool to be Hispanic. According to the district's data, last school year and the year before saw an overall 1% increase of Black and Hispanic teachers hired.

Benitez says the district should really focus on steps they can take right now, like elevating Hispanic educators to leadership roles.

"We're finding these minority teacher leaders now become mentors," Benitez said. "By doing so, they get to help mitigate feelings of isolation, frustration and even fatigue that is often experienced by teachers of color."