We wish to express our sincere regret and dismay at the brutal killing of George Floyd, as well as other Black Americans, including Rayshard Brooks, Maurice Gordon, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. These deaths are the latest in a long history of violence perpetrated against African-Americans in this country.

The members of the New Jersey Association for Colleges of Teacher Education (NJACTE) offer our deepest condolences to Black Americans, who sadly are all too familiar with the grief, the despair, and the bitterness that have accompanied our long history of structural racism in the United States.

Unfortunately, structural racism is not limited to the justice system; our educational system demonstrates these disparities as well. In our schools, Black Children receive less government funding than White Children and are more likely to be suspended, placed in remedial classes, or arrested.

New Jersey is sixth in segregated schools nationally, despite having the most diverse population in the country. Further, there is a significant shortage of Black Teachers, even though research has demonstrated increased achievement when students are exposed to teachers of their race, ethnicity, and gender. In fact, all students benefit from a diversified teacher workforce.

This is not a new issue, and these are not new questions. NJACTE has attempted to grapple with the issues of systemic racism and injustice recently. In the past 24 months, our efforts have included a commitment to diversifying the teacher workforce and organizing an annual statewide conference with the New Jersey Department of Education to initiate conversations around these critical issues (“Leadership for Diversity” conference and the  Annual “Convening for Diversifying the Teaching Force”).

But clearly, more work needs to be done. The membership of the NJACTE joins with its national organization the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) to recommit themselves to ensure justice for all children, to break down the walls of segregation, and to diversify the teacher workforce.

We stand in solidarity with Black Americans in support of a more just society, one that offers equal opportunities for all.

To innovate change means we will continue to engage in necessary, and sometimes uncomfortable, conversations around equity and inclusion issues. Most importantly, we will work toward fulfilling our commitments. Our work together will require significant changes in our own behavior as we strive to restore social justice, to heal, and to create lasting institutional changes.