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PPS Plans To Re-launch Teacher Diversity Initiative With 2 Local Universities

Sarah Schneider
90.5 WESA

A program meant to diversify the ranks of teachers at the Pittsburgh Public Schools could soon be re-launched. The program was postponed in October after issues surfaced with the partner university selected by the district.

PPS says when it first put out a request for proposals for universities to partner with the district to train more teachers of color, it only received one response from Grand Canyon University, a private Arizona-based Christian school.

According to a release from PPS, once it severed ties with Grand Canyon it put out a request for proposals from 89 colleges and universities. Four submitted proposals and two were presented to the school board Tuesday during an education committee meeting.

Carlow University and Point Park University are offering two-year master’s programs for current paraprofessionals with bachelor’s degrees and at least a 2.8 undergrad grade point average. In return for participating in the initiative, the paraprofessionals must agree to teach in high-needs PPS schools for three years once they are certified.

According to the district, 56 percent of current paraprofessionals who hold bachelor’s degrees or higher are black, while more than 80 percent of its teachers are white. Fifty-three percent of Pittsburgh Public Schools students are black.

“This partnership will support our efforts to increase the diversity of our teacher workforce through growing our own – those paraprofessionals who already work to support our students every day,” said Superintendent Anthony Hamlet in a release.

At the time the school was being sued by two former students for allegedly misrepresenting accreditation of some of its programs and the validity of its degrees across state lines, according to the Arizona Republic. A separate class action lawsuit was filed in September in federal court accusing the university of allegedly forcing students to pay for extra classes in order to finish their degrees, according to the Phoenix New Times.

Hamlet said Grand Canyon University did not disclose “existing litigation and the University’s relationship with for-profit affiliates” when it agreed to partner with the district.

The Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers and PPS will contribute nearly $50,000 each toward the program, or $1,500 per year per paraprofessional. The district is submitting a proposal to foundations to cover its portion.