Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Don't Use Tax Dollars for TFA

As the Minnesota legislature prepares to vote on an omnibus education bill, defenders of public education are speaking out against a part of the senate version of the bill that gives $1.5 million to Teach for America.  TFA is trying to expand its presence in Minnesota and wants tax money to do it.  This, despite the facts that public schools have been underfunded for years, and we have plenty of fully licensed teachers here in Minnesota.

The following message state legislators and the public was originally posted on MN2020 Hindsight.  Please e-mail your state legislators and tell them not to give public funds to an unneeded non-profit.  Tax dollars should be spent on true public schools.

Caroline Hooper, is a Minneapolis teacher and a member of PEJAM.

Don’t Use Tax Dollars for TFA

The State Senate higher education bill provides Teach for America (TFA) up to $1.4 million in taxpayer funding over the next two fiscal years (See line 5.29). TFA undermines and is at odds with Minnesota’s tradition of providing quality education and the best teaching corps in the nation. Minnesota should not be promoting TFA.
  • TFA recruits are inexperienced. It is not the individual, young TFA recruits, but the model itself which is problematic. TFA recruits are provided a five week boot camp the summer prior to being placed in some of the most challenging classrooms in the state. Five weeks is hardly enough preparation for successfully managing classrooms of children. Many TFA recruits admit that their training left them ill-prepared for real classrooms.
  • TFA recruits lack a commitment to teaching and to the classroom. Not only are these young TFA members unprepared to be effective teachers, 70% to 80% leave the classroom within the first three years, creating a revolving door of inexperienced teachers for children who need the best teachers.
  •  TFA infringes on students’ civil rights. TFA targets communities with large numbers of minority and/or low-income students thereby creating teacher turnover in the schools serving these children.
  • TFA is not effective. “Multiple studies have demonstrated that TFA recruits are no more effective than traditionally trained new teachers and are far less effective than experienced, career educators. Some studies indicate that TFA recruits actually lower the reading scores of students.
  • TFA does not increase academic achievement. TFA misleads the public by conflating learning and academic success with a test score. While test scores may or may not be indicative of the achievement of any individual student at a given point in time; education is much more than a test score and test prep.
  • TFA displaces career educators. TFA destroys school and community cohesion by replacing experienced, career educators with inexperienced, ineffective recruits. TFA requires partnering districts to contractually guarantee teaching spots for its recruits, thus forcing cash strapped districts to layoff experienced, career educators.
Furthermore, the goal of TFA in Minnesota is not about providing quality teachers for classrooms; instead the goal is, in the words of Daniel Sellers, TFA alum and head of MinnCAN, "not a teacher-training program. It’s a leadership training program." "Its mission," he said, was to "equip the best and the brightest to go into the most disadvantaged classrooms for two years. After this time, some would stay in teaching while others would move on." TFA sets out to create teacher turnover in the classrooms of some of the neediest students in the state.
Additionally, TFA is not a cash-strapped nonprofit. It is a corporate funded political organization that has over 1800 (non-classroom) employees and annual operating surpluses in the millions--$114 million in a recent federal filing.
Policymakers should not divert public money meant for education into corporate driven reform such as Teach for America. Instead, the legislature should use this money to encourage and support young Minnesotans, especially our young people of color and from our immigrant communities, to pursue careers in teaching.

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