The United States government estimates the country will need 1.7 million more teachers over the next decade. It is a tall task to convince high school students that following a career in education is a good idea, especially when they look to their own classrooms, to the teachers they know, who are facing unprecedented layoffs.
But that was the message the U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, celebrities John Legend and Oscar De La Hoya delivered Friday to the next generation of potential educators at the Roybal Learning Center in Downtown Los Angeles.
According to the Department of Education 41% of public school students are minorities but only seven percent of teachers are African American or Hispanic.
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The students attending the Education Roundtable at the Roybal Learning Center heard from former boxer De La Hoya, who credited a teacher, not his trainer, for his success.
“They’re actually like your second parents. They want the best from you. They want to teach you in order to become better citizens. They want to teach you what life is all about,” said De La Hoya.
Duncan estimates that 100,000 teachers are hired every year, but in a district where thousands are facing layoffs, a career in education is a tough sell. However, Duncan had an ace up his sleeve; a commitment from President Obama.
Duncan tried to convince students that becoming a teacher is also economically beneficial because much of their college tuition might be covered by a committed to major in education.
“In very tough budget times, when the president has basically flat-lined domestic spending, he’s asking for a two-billion dollar increase in education. It’s a remarkable commitment on his part to help the country get where we need to go,” said Duncan.
It’s an issue believes will make a difference, according to the singer Legend.
“The more young people that are talented, that are driven, that are passionate, that we encourage to go into that profession the better off our schools are going to be,” said Legend.
But not all students are convinced.
“If there’s such a need why are they laying off so many teachers,” asked high school student Francisco Lima.