Teach For America Coming To San Diego Schools For First Time
San Diego's schools don’t know yet how much additional funding they can count on from Proposition 30’s new taxes. But schools trustees approved two plans this week to bring in new teachers after years of pink slips.
The first plan could bring up to 25 teachers from Teach for America into San Diego schools every year for the next three years. Teach for America, or TFA, is an organization that recruits mostly new college graduates to teach in high-needs public schools for two years.
The agreement gives priority to San Diego natives who want to come back to city schools and will be cost neutral for the district. TFA recruits will only be hired if there are vacant budgeted positions available and they will have to interview for those positions along with the rest of the district's applicant pool.
San Diego Unified Trustee Richard Barrera helped draft the agreement and said the district will benefit in two ways.
“The quality of young people TFA tends to attract and then the other thing is the local community – local business and philanthropy – they’re going to raise the money for the program,” he said.
Donors are expected to fund recruitment fees and professional development costs during the three-year agreement. But that didn’t sell Teachers Union President Bill Freeman on the idea. He wants the district to focus on hiring long-term substitutes or temporary contract teachers.
“We have those individuals who have dedicated many, many years to this district and every year they are hoping to get a contract. Every year,” he said at the board's Tuesday night meeting.
Teach for America has drawn criticism from teachers unions and others during its 20-year history. Common concerns include that the organization displaces more experienced credentialed teachers with lower-paid recruits with little training. Supporters say the group's teachers outperform colleagues in schools where they are placed.
At their Tuesday meeting, board members also agreed to develop a program with the union to recruit and retain local students as teachers.
“It’s something we’ve wanted to do for a number of years that the budget crisis has made very difficult to think about," Barrera said. "Well, now we’re thinking about it and we’re going to start moving forward.”
Proposition 30 taxes could bring in up to an additional $2,000 dollars per student in coming years, according to Barrera, which would be enough money to lower class sizes and start significant teacher hiring.