By Kara Kane
Score another win for the movement to destroy public education.
The Buffalo School District’s decision to hire Teach for America individuals – I refuse to call them teachers – will put uncertified temps in front of the city’s disadvantaged students. The stated reason: There aren’t enough qualified candidates.
I would suggest looking to the colleges in the region that graduate certified teachers each semester. Or the district could put out a call to experienced educators who have been laid off during years of devastating budget cuts.
The district just told all Buffalonians looking to stop the brain drain that their talents are not needed. M&T Bank, despite its promise to invest in Buffalo, has said the same by paying the $5,000 bounty for each candidate.
Think of where those funds could have gone – social workers, early education and after-school programs, professional training, arts and science funding – all of which have been proven empirically to improve learning.
If you look for research from the past 20 years since Teach for America has been in operation, you will have to look hard to find any independent evidence that those “teachers” are any better for kids. Should our most vulnerable students be taught by temps with five weeks of boot camp-style training, who will most likely leave after their two-year stint ends? Or should we commit to placing veteran, master teachers who can inspire and build stable, enriching classrooms in our city?
Katie Campos talked a good game as the local Teach for America representative. But here’s a fun exercise I do whenever I see corporate education mouthpieces, such as Campos, in the news. I plug their names into the New York State Education Department TEACH educator lookup (www.highered.nysed.gov/tcert/respublic/) to see what certifications they hold in New York. The answer, unsurprisingly, is usually “none.”
Buffalo’s decision affirms that entrusting the education of inner-city kids to inexperienced temps is viable – even desired – as public policy. It continues the push to erode the public’s faith in public education, and gets the public used to the idea of public-private education partnerships, like charter schools, that benefit the “private” at the expense of the public. Despite its non-profit status, Teach for America is big business, with an operating budget of a quarter-billion dollars and growing.
Teach for America’s revolving-door presence will contribute to further instability for children, personnel churn in the district and the erosion of classroom quality. And watch out, suburban districts: The same Teach for America cheerleaders demanding “data-driven results” through this initiative might be coming for your schools next.
Kara Kane is a School Board member in the Springville-Griffith Institute Central School District. She does not speak for the board or the district.