Friday, August 30, 2013

Pushing Aside Certified, Committed Young Teachers for Teach for America Wannabees


Two weeks ago I posted a blog entry asking the question, Does Teacher Certification Matter? You can find that post here. Just as training and licensing matter for other professionals like doctors, nurses, lawyers and certified public accountants, it seems a no brainer that training and licensure matters for teachers. In case you think this is not a major issue, I would call your attention to this report from Jonathan Pelto on what is happening in Connecticut. Here is a piece of his report.

Last Monday night, Paul Vallas, Bridgeport’s faux superintendent of schools, revealed that he had hired another 31 Teach for America recruits to staff Bridgeport’s schools this year.   Few, if any of the recruits come from Connecticut and none went to a Ccollege or university to become a teacher.

The TFA recruits come courtesy of a March 2013 deal between Vallas and Nate Snow, the Executive Director for the Connecticut Chapter of Teach for America.  Snow is also   the President of Excel Bridgeport, Inc. the corporate funded lobbying and advocacy group that has been Vallas’ strongest supporter…

Not only are TFA recruits paid at regular teacher salary levels, but in return for supplying the Teach for America recruits, Vallas committed the City of Bridgeport to pay TFA a “fee” of “$3,000 per year for the first two years a teacher is employed.  According to the contract, the annual fee goes up next year to $3,105 a year and then to $3,214 the year after that.

In total, the Vallas/TFA contract calls for the City to hire 125 TFA teachers.  That number would provide Nate Snow’s organization with a finder’s fee in excess of  $750,000.

Vallas you will remember is the same unqualified school leader who brought ruin to the Philadelphia schools, among other urban school districts. Please note that this is $750,000 dollars in finder’s fees for finding and providing 5 weeks of training to unqualified neophytes to man the challenging Bridgeport classrooms. Could you think of other ways to spend that money? Perhaps reducing class size? Repairing crumbling infrastructure? Providing important professional development for current Bridgeport teachers? Hiring a real superintendent?

Pelto rightly points out that these TFA positions deny jobs to fully certified, committed graduates of Connecticut universities who have trained to be teachers. Wouldn’t the Bridgeport schools want to hire some of these folks? We cannot know because these positions were never even advertised to education graduates. The jobs were simply given to Teach for America wannabees.

It is a cautionary tale for all members of a profession under siege. We must all be sure to support the hiring and continued professional development of certified teachers who have shown a commitment to teaching and will not be moving on to an executive position with some hedge fund in two years.