UPDATE: Updated with information about teaching applications from SPS.
That seems to be the question making the rounds in local blogs and emails. Last year, the Seattle School Board approved a contract with TFA that would allow 30 of their corp members to compete for teaching spots in Seattle Public Schools along with other local teachers.
Neither the board nor the district gets to choose the teacher—that decision will ultimately be made by the specific school site hiring the teacher. And yet a flurry of activity (and big names) surrounding bringing TFA to Seattle—the Gates, Bezos, Raikes and Seattle foundations and others helped raise $5 million for TFA and the University of Washington's College of Education (CoE's Dean Stritikus is a TFA alumnus) is proposing (.pdf) accelerated teaching certificates—had folks asking whether TFA is pretty much a done deal.
The UW CoE's own students felt it was unfair that TFA members would be getting the same privileges (tuition assistance, fast-track credentials, etc) as them in a tough job market.
TFA opponents, including the local teachers union, argue that new college grads with a 5-week crash course in teaching can't compete with someone who has years of experience teaching in classrooms.
"It's a slap in the face to our teachers," says Seattle Education Association Vice President Jonathan Knapp, pointing to dozens of letters from experienced teachers who can't find a job in Seattle. "What it says to teachers is that just anybody can do this work."
Knapp says SPS is misrepresenting the number of teacher vacancies in the district by saying there is a teacher shortage in the district. "There is no shortage of teachers in the district," he says. According to the SPS website, the district received 18,688 applications for 766 positions in the 2010-11 school year alone (SPS informed me July 6 that 13,800 were teaching applications).
I asked school board director Peter Maier at yesterday's SECB meeting whether TFA was a done deal, and more important, what kind of message the board was sending Seattle teachers by approving TFA (as harmless as the contract might seem on the surface) at a time when their jobs were on the chopping block. "TFA to me is all about expanding the applicant pool," says Maier, offering the same explanation as the district "Especially for teachers of color and science teachers."
I didn't really see a lot of minority TFA candidates at the Seattle school board meeting. TFA says 30 percent of its candidates are people of color. Which leaves me wondering, how many of them will actually be present in the pool of recruits interviewing here?
TFA itself lists "local support" as one of the reasons for picking Seattle as its next city to expand, but sadly, the program didn't really get a lot of local support at school board meetings. It was mostly TFA members who had good things to say about TFA.