Updated with additional background on the contract between Paul Vallas and Teach for America
Last Monday night, Paul Vallas, Bridgeport’s faux superintendent of schools revealed that he had hired another 31 Teach for America recruits to staff Bridgeport’s schools this year. Few, if any of the recruits come from Connecticut and none went to a Connecticut college or university to become a teacher.
The TFA recruits come courtesy of a March 2013 deal between Vallas and Nate Snow, the Executive Director for the Connecticut Chapter of Teach for America. Snow is also the President of Excel Bridgeport, Inc. the corporate funded lobbying and advocacy group that has been Vallas’ strongest supporter, turning out crowds for public hearings and rallies in support of the embattled Bridgeport education reformer. Snow and Excel Bridgeport also played a vital role in support of Mayor Bill Finch’s failed charter revision effort that would have done away with an elected board of education and replaced it with one appointed by Finch.
Not only are TFA recruits paid at regular teacher salary levels, but in return for supplying the Teach for America recruits, Vallas committed the City of Bridgeport to pay TFA a “fee” of “$3,000 per year for the first two years a teacher is employed. According to the contract, the annual fee goes up next year to $3,105 a year and then to $3,214 the year after that.
In total, the Vallas/TFA contract calls for the City to hire 125 TFA teachers. That number would provide Nate Snow’s organization with a finder’s fee in excess of $750,000.
Meanwhile in Windham, Malloy’s Special Master, Steven Adamowski, has packed the Windham schools with more and more of these mostly out-of-state Teach for America students.
As a result of Adamowski’s actions, about one in five Windham teachers had just a few weeks of training rather than having gone through one of Connecticut’s university-based teacher training programs.
The approach that is being taken by school administrators like Vallas and Adamowski is leaving hundreds of new Connecticut trained teachers twisting slowly in the wind.
It was only last May that literally hundreds of Connecticut residents earned their teaching certificates, after four or five years-worth of work, at UConn, Connecticut State University or one of Connecticut’s Independent colleges or universities.
At UConn, for example, students have two different options when it comes to teacher preparation programs including the “highly competitive five-year comprehensive teacher preparation program that integrates coursework and school-based clinic experiences facilitated by university and K-12 faculty in the preparation of pre-service teachers.”
As UConn proudly reports, “Over the past few years, U.S. News & World Report has ranked the IB/M program among the top 25 teacher preparation programs in Elementary Education, Secondary Education, and Special Education. We are nationally accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education as well as the Connecticut State Board of Education. Further, certification through the IB/M program is recognized by forty states through the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education & Certification Interstate Contract.”
But did Paul Vallas or Steven Adamowski hire these students or the others who came out of Central, Southern, Eastern, Western or one of the other colleges in the state?
The answer would be a big NO!
In fact, the teaching positions that went to the out-of-state Teach for America recruits weren’t even posted as vacancies, meaning Connecticut residents never even had a chance to compete for the spots.
Earlier this month, Governor Malloy told the media that the economy was improving and that he was the only Connecticut governor to have created jobs over the past two decades.
Of course his claim wasn’t true…but even worse, he tried to skip over the fact that according to Connecticut’s Department of Labor, “Connecticut’s unemployment rate was estimated at 8.1% for July 2013.” That means the percentage of unemployed actually increased over the summer.
There is nothing fundamentally wrong with giving a few Teach for America recruits the opportunity to get experience by teaching in our public schools but administrators like Vallas and Adamowski have been consistently blocking opportunities for our own Connecticut children… Children who went to college in Connecticut and developed the expertise and knowledge they needed to teach in our public schools.
Imagine, we have Connecticut students, and their families, who were forced to borrow tens of thousands of dollars to go to college. They took the right courses, they got the right grades, they completed their teacher preparation programs and they earned their teaching certification. But when they graduated they discovered that they couldn’t even apply for a significant number of jobs in Connecticut’s public schools because someone had cut a deal to give dozens of those jobs away to out-of-state kids who didn’t even need to take education courses.
Put aside all the issues associated with whether TFA recruits have sufficient training before being sent into the classroom.
The fact is that Connecticut’s economy remains derailed and instead of using every opportunity to create good jobs for Connecticut residents, Governor Malloy, Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, Paul Vallas and Steven Adamowski are setting up systems that prevent our children from even applying for these good paying jobs.
And as if all of this wasn’t insulting enough to the hard working families of Connecticut, TFA recruits generally qualify for the various federal loan forbearance programs meaning that while getting full teacher salaries their student loans are being paid for by the United States Government.
So when all is said and done, instead of creating jobs for Connecticut residents, the TFA program blocks Connecticut residents from getting jobs, gives jobs to people who have not gone through Connecticut teacher preparation programs, diverts hundreds of thousands of dollars in Connecticut taxpayer funds to Teach for America in the form of finder’s fees and leaves our students with more debt…all while out-of-state students get their student loans paid for by the government for taking away jobs that should be going Connecticut residents who have worked so hard to become teachers.
It is a sad excuse for leadership in these troubled economic times.