CALDWELL, Idaho — Idaho's Latino student population is growing, while the number of Latino or nonwhite teachers remains stagnant, officials said.
In the state's 10 school districts with the highest percentage of Latino students, 90% of teachers are white, The Idaho Press-Tribune reported Saturday.
Officials say Latino students are the largest minority group in Idaho public schools, including several schools and a few school districts where there is a Latino student majority.
High concentrations of Latino students occur in rural areas across southern Idaho where jobs on farms and dairies have drawn Latinos for generations, officials said.
Many of those with the highest percentage of Latino students are elementary schools.
Recruiting and retaining teachers is difficult when other areas offer higher pay, said Patti Wade, human resources director for the Caldwell School District.
"I'm finding my circle has to get bigger and bigger when I recruit because even when I go to the job fairs, the predominant candidates are white," Wade said.
Idaho's representation gap means students can experience difficulties finding role models.
"There are Hispanic secretaries, cooks and custodians and the people in those positions do "amazing jobs," but there should also be Latinos in roles above those staff levels," said Stephanie Archuleta, a Caldwell district teacher who comes from a migrant family.
"Because what message does that send our kids," Archuleta said. "This is what you're good at? Aim for that?"
The state Legislature could help schools recruit local people through increased funding, said Marisela Pesina of the Caldwell School Board.
"We have to pay our teachers (well) so that Hispanic kids want to be teachers," Pesina said.