Some students in Connecticut will go from preschool through high school graduation without ever having a teacher of color. Some districts only have a single black teacher. Others might have only one Latino teacher.
"I think it's a disservice to our students, and I'm not just talking about minority students," said state Sen. Gary Winfield, a Democrat who represents New Haven and West Haven.
"To see that we have -- not just classrooms, but whole areas, whole sections of our state still where there are no, what we sometimes classify as minority teachers, is quite frankly, for me as an individual, disturbing," he said.
Winfield co-chairs a task force set up last year to look at the issue of minority teacher recruitment. Research has shown that all students perform better when their teachers represent diverse backgrounds.
The problem has been on the state's radar since at least 2007, when the General Assembly created a minority recruiting alliance. But since then, the problem has gotten worse in some cases.
In fact, according to state data, only one major Connecticut city had more African American teachers in 2014 than in 2007. Most cities have fewer black teachers. Some of them actually have more white teachers.
Winfield said the problem probably fell off the state's radar until a few years ago, when a study found that Connecticut has one of the widest achievement gaps in the country between students of color and white students.
"I think we had kind of gotten lax about the overall issue. When those numbers came out there was a renewed vigor to do something about it," he said.
The state Department of Education is trying to make it easier for people to become teachers, and has taken several steps to attract people of color to the profession. Last week, the state approved an alternative teacher certification program that aims to help, though some have expressed concern that it would allow untrained and under-prepared teachers to enter the classroom.