Teach for America, the elite teacher training program whose acceptance rates have often been compared with Ivy League schools, wants to come to Seattle. But the Seattle teachers union has a problem. Several, actually.
Union representatives are getting ready to make their pitch against TFA at the school board meeting tonight, when board members discuss a contract with the non-profit which will allow up to 50 members to apply for teaching jobs in Seattle next spring.
"There's simply no need, especially in a climate when so many teachers in Seattle are out of a job," said Seattle Education Association Vice President Jonathan Knapp. Moreover, Knapp contends, TFA teachers aren't qualified enough. "They are only trained for five weeks and don''t even have teaching certificates," he said.
Teach for America members have a commitment to teach for only two years at high-poverty schools, before deciding whether they want to pursue teaching or do something else. During that period, they partner with a local university to receive their state certification.
TFA spokesperson Rebecca Neale said that TFA members are not trying to compete with district teachers. "Every school year there are openings and TFA members would interview alongside other candidates," she said. "Nobody is guaranteed a position or an interview."
Neale said TFA picked Seattle because of its "massive and solvable achievement gap."
But before TFA can come to Seattle, it needs to raise $4 million, some of which has already been donated by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Seattle Foundation, and the Bezos Foundation. Another thing Knapp is angry about is that the district has to pay TFA a $4,000 "headhunter fee" for every teacher it hires. The district says it will seek private funding for this.
Union members are also ticked off that until recently, SPS Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson, sat on the board of the Broad Foundation with TFA founder and CEO Wendy Kopp. "We just voted no confidence in Goodloe-Johnson for not disclosing that she was on the board of the testing company that the district contracted with," Knapp said. "And now the district is offering a contract to TFA."