This morning Crystal Bonvillian ran an interesting article about the Huntsville City School board’s plans to hire up to 110 new Teach for American, Inc. teachers over the next three years. These hirings will cost the system $550,000 or $5,000 for each new teacher. Yet this money represents one-quarter of the total cost associated with recruiting, selection and professional development of a Teach for America teacher. The actual cost for all 110 of these teachers will be closer to $2,200,000 over three years.
Mr. J. W. Carpenter of TFA claims that 75% of that cost will be covered “through donations from the private sector.”
Let’s think about this for a moment.
The Huntsville City School System is projecting approximately a four million dollar deficit in its general fund operating budget at the end of the 2012 fiscal year. In order to address that deficit, the board has voted to reduce new teachers’ salaries to the state minimum. Additionally, the board has voted to freeze all STEP raises for all teachers/employees. And yet this same board is considering a proposal to spend $550,000 dollars over the next three years with a private company just to hire 110 new teachers? And this money is on top of the amount that these 110 teachers will be paid by the system?
So, a broke system believes that hiring people to teach who are not trained as teachers is a good idea.
- TFA teachers receive the same salary and the same benefits that a non-TFA teacher receives.
- Additionally, TFA teachers also receive $5,350 per year for two years from AmeriCorps to pay off student loans.
- TFA teachers can postpone the repayment of their student loans for the two years they are in the program, and AmeriCorps will repay the interest that is accrued during their service period.
- TFA also pays for transitional expenses during the summer after they graduate.
I thought that the private sector was supposed to be all about the bottom line? Wasn’t Dr. Wardynski sold to the system as a person who could bring financial stability to a floundering system? So how does it make sense to spend $550,000 to hire teachers–who aren’t trained to teach–when we could not spend $550,000 and hire teachers who are trained to teach?
Regardless of the stupid jokes that get passed around, people who can also teach others to do so as well. (In fact, no one truly understands a topic until they try to teach it to someone else.) Yet, according to Mr. Carpenter’s own numbers, 90% of the Teach for America “teachers” weren’t interested enough in eduction to pursue a degree in education. (According to their website, that number is closer to 94%.) They decided that a degree in some other field, that a career in some other field, made more sense and then changed their minds.
You know, I complete understand that. I, too, entered education from another field. Teaching is, without question, the greatest career on the planet. Being able to work with students and watch them struggle with concepts they’ve never considered before until they grasp them is, simply, the coolest thing ever.
So I understand why a recent graduate would consider teaching to be an amazing gift.
But Teach for America, Inc. adds additional overhead to a process that is working without adding any additional benefit. And that makes no sense.
Here’s a simple question: if we can and are filling our teaching positions without spending an extra $5,000 per teacher on recruitment, selection and training, then why are we even considering spending the extra money while we’re still in debt?
Could it be that the reason we’re doing so is because our superintendent and our school board do not respect educators? Perhaps this is why Dr. Wardynski seeks to blame teachers at every turn as he did last Tuesday when he said, “Educators can play games” with AYP scores and evaluations?
A person who has never been a teacher, who has received only weekend training seminars when he decided to enter education, finds it easy to dismiss the commitment and dedication that teachers, who have dedicated their entire lives to teaching, have to educating all of our children.
Here’s a thought: rather than giving $550,000 to TFA, why not spend that money on the classrooms that are already filled? Why not hire an additional 10-15 teachers on our own and avoid the TFA overhead? Why not go to those “private sector” donors and ask them to support our classrooms to the tune of $1.6 million over the next three years instead?
Only a superintendent with no educational background (but who appreciates the benefits of working in education for himself and his friends), would think this a good idea.