I suppose Teach for America had to respond, had to try and make itself look defensible, but TfA got it wrong. In a response to the NEA denouncing some of its practices, the group stated: “we do not and would not engage in union busting or silencing activities.”
Now, this in response to a business item at the NEA Representative Assembly in Chicago (which passed) and stated in part: that the NEA opposes TfA contracts in districts “where there is no teacher shortage or when districts use TFA agreements to reduce teacher costs, silence union voices, or as a vehicle to bust unions.” (I commented on this briefly in a recent post.)
The NEA business item itself came from teachers in Seattle whose district allowed TfA teachers to apply for jobs within the district even though the district had a glut of teachers recently let go because of budgets and teachers looking for jobs already. Seattle had no need for TfA teachers. Teach for America continuously claims that their teachers only go where job shortages exist or in high-need areas, neither of which describes Washington State.
It’s true that TfA teachers are often union members (and this was brought up at the NEA rep. assembly), but it’s also true that TfA teachers come with a “fee for each member” making these teachers more expensive in a time of budget cuts.
Plus, this comes during a time when Washington State is clearly a target of union busting groups like Stand For Children and as Jonah Edelman explained in a much-distributed video. Besides Stand For Children, Washington State has locally-funded groups backed by Bill Gates attacking the schools in Washington State and who sent funding specifically to Teach for America. (And, the only reason anyone engages Gates on education is that he has a fat pocket book, but zero education experience.)
TfA is trying to force themselves into areas where they are unnecessary. TfA is really looking to supplant the teachers already there (as in Seattle where over 46,000 teachers applied for 4,500 jobs and this infusion also hurts our local education programs). Beyond this, TfA has a very poor record of keeping its teachers in education for very long but is very well funded in numerous ways.
If Teach for America was solely looking to help kids not served by public education, it would stay in the identified high-needs areas, it would not need to pay districts to allow it to enter, it would not need to sway board members by promising extras, and it would work alongside public educators instead of working against them.