In this section, we will look at the harmful effect that TFA and teacher bashing have had on real public school teachers.
How TFA Busts Teachers Unions... The “First Placement” Policy
The alliance between TFA and charter schools is cemented by an arrangement that few people know about outside of TFA. The teacher placement policy of TFA explicitly states in bold letters, “It is our policy that corps
members accept the first position offered to them.” The result of this policy is that TFA recruits have no bargaining position to negotiate wages or benefits, meaning that whatever offer a school makes, the TFA recruit must accept it. The “first placement” policy means that TFA can guarantee charter schools a constant supply of new teachers each year who have no choice but to work for wages and benefits far below those negotiated by the local teachers union at traditional public schools in the same area. While a first year salary for a teacher at a traditional unionized school in Chicago is approximately $45,000, the starting salary at many of TFA’s partner charter schools is nearly 30 percent less at $32,000.
Churn and burn is the business model for these schools, and TFA provides a continuous supply of naive young workers who have no choice but to accept their lot. Furthermore, this constant churn of fake TFA teachers who possess zero experience can’t possibly be good for the academic or social-emotional development of students who often have little stability in their lives.
“Through its partnerships with charter schools and its mandate that corps members take the first job they’re offered, TFA is lowering wages, reducing benefits and worsening the working conditions of teachers. It is increasingly clear that the mission of the corporate class is to destroy teachers unions and remake the teaching profession into a temporary, low paying job. The corporate class is getting all of the help it needs from Teach For America.”
Chad Sommer, Former TFA Recruit
Billionaire Attack on Public School Teachers has Severely Harmed the Teaching Profession
Billionaires have been bashing teachers ever since the 1980s. But it was not until the harsh mandatory punishments of No Child Left Behind that the constant stream of abuse has had a negative financial impact on teachers – as thousands of excellent experienced teachers were fired simply for serving at a school that taught low income students.
However, in addition to thousands of teachers being fired, thousands of additional experienced teachers have quit the teaching profession in disgust of all of the ed reform scams being inflicted on students in public schools. This has cause a major shift in the distribution of experienced teachers at our public schools. Here is what the teacher experience distribution was like 30 years ago:
Note the even distribution in years of teaching experience with many more teachers having 10 years of experience than teachers having only one year. Here is the uneven distribution in teaching experience after 30 years of billionaires constantly bashing public school teachers:
Today, the largest category of teachers are first year teachers -with more than twice the percentage of first year teachers as there was 30 years ago. Every year, more teachers leave in disgust. Instead of helping teachers become better, attacking teachers has led to a huge drop in teacher satisfaction.
A 2010 National Teacher Survey by Met Life found that teacher satisfaction levels have plummeted since stifling Common Core mandates were imposed.
College Students are also Abandoning Teaching as a Profession
With hundreds of thousands of experienced teachers having been fired in the past five years, and Congress deciding that a person with five weeks of training is now “highly qualified,” it should come as no surprise that college students are reluctant to train for a career as a teacher. For example, in fall 2004, there were 18,685 students enrolled as education majors at the 14 schools in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. Ten years later, that number had dropped a third to 12,569. It is even worse in California where enrollments in teacher preparation programs have declined dramatically. According to a 2013 report prepared for the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, 26,446 students were enrolled in teacher preparation programs in 2011-12 – a 66 percent decline from a decade earlier, when 77,700 students were enrolled.
The declining enrollments are echoed by similarly declining numbers of teaching credentials. At the California State University system, only 5,787 credentials were issued in 2011-12 to students in its teacher preparation programs, down from 13,933 in 2003-04. Over the past five years, the teaching profession in California has been devastated by layoffs; some 26,000 teachers lost their jobs as a result of the state’s budget crisis. With all of these experienced teachers available, it is very difficult for new teachers coming out of college to even find their first teaching job.
Despite the huge decline in college students enrolling in Education Teacher Prep programs in Pennsylvania and California, and despite the huge numbers of laid off experienced teachers in both States, California and Pennsylvania are among the “leaders” in charter schools, charter school corruption and TFA recruits.
Nine States with the most TFA Teachers
Teacher Turnover TFA Fake Teachers versus Real Teachers
A 2010 study found that “more than 50% of TFA teachers leave after two years and more than 80% leave after three years.” By comparison, over 60% of all real teachers - who typically have five years of training – leave after 5 years with most of the remainder staying for more than 10 years. The following chart shows how long TFA recruits remain in the teaching profession.
By contrast, this is the experience distribution of real public school teachers using the same scale:
As a result of the huge turnover of TFA teachers at charter schools, students at TFA fed charter schools are taught by an endless stream of first-year teachers. These students and their TFA fake teachers are doomed to failure just so Wendy Kopp can make a few hundred million dollars every year.
The Real Cost of Fake TFA Teachers
In 2007, the National Commission on Teaching and Learning issued a report concluding that Teacher Turnover, including the cost of training new teachers is extremely expensive for school districts – costing over $7 billion per year. This report found that hiring well-prepared teachers reduced first year attrition by 50 percent. Here is a quote from this report:
“Well-prepared teachers possess strong content knowledge; they understand how students learn and demonstrate the teaching skills necessary to help all students meet high standards; they can use a variety of assessment strategies to diagnose student learning needs; and they can reflect on their practices to improve instruction in collaboration with their colleagues.”
Teacher Salaries are Much Lower than Other Professions
Another reason teachers suffer from a much higher turnover than other professions, besides the fact that they are being attacked by billionaires is that are among the lowest paid of all professions.
Sorce: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupation Employment Statistics
Class Sizes Skyrocket as School Funding Disappears
Another problem inflicted on teachers and students due to the billionaire attack on our schools is huge increases in class sizes. In 1980, at the beginning of the attack on teachers under Reagan, Washington State was 11th in the nation in school funding – spending about 6 cents out of every dollar in income in our State on public schools. By 2000, our state fell down to the national average in spending on public schools which is about 5% of income. By 2012, Washington fell to 47th in the nation in school funding at 4% of state income. As a result, class sizes in Washington state are now among the most overcrowded in the nation. Many math teachers have more than 40 kids per class with 5 classes per day – for a total of 200 kids per day. Is it any wonder our kids are having trouble learning math?
Meanwhile, Washington state legislators have increased tax breaks for wealthy multinational corporations like Microsoft by more than ten billion dollars per year. The biggest winner of the tax exemption scam is none other than tax evader Bill Gates – who robs of schools of more than one billion dollars per year by refusing to pay his fair share of state taxes.
The Cost of Replacing Exhausted Demoralized Teachers is much Higher than Respecting the Teachers we have
In January 2014, the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) published a study on TFA called TFA A Return to the Evidence. They analyzed the total cost of hiring TFA recruits who constantly quit and had to be replaced versus the total cost of hiring and retaining real teachers. The report found that unprepared fake TFA teachers cost school districts four times as much over the long run as real teachers. To be exact, the total cost of the two-year commitment from a TFA recruit can easily exceed $70,000 when including professional development, training and other costs.
Cost Comparison of 100 TFA Teachers versus 100 Real Teachers after 5 years
Due to the high turnover of TFA teachers, the re-occurring costs of hiring 100 TFA recruits is quite high for local school districts—about $6 million more than hiring 100 Non-TFA teachers.
Real Teachers are Slowly Dying
Susan DuFresne, a real teacher in Washington, wrote an article about her emotionally exhausting life as a teacher. Susan writes:
“What will happen to us as teachers, parents, students, and democracy as we continue to struggle in our mandated race to the top of corporate education reform? As teachers, we are being exploited by the corporate reformers who profit from their failing experiments – and our families are left with nothing but ghosts of who we once were…..It is only December, and yet I I have more second thoughts about continuing my profession and feel closer to succumbing to burn-out than ever before. From the movie, Beyond the Edge: Above 26,000 feet is what we call the death zone…the death zone because you are slowly dying. Just as the mountain above 26,000 feet is uninhabitable – classrooms in public schools across the country have become uninhabitable for human beings – teachers and students alike. With each step further into the world of corporate reform, I become more confused about why I chose this profession and I recognize that a small part of me is dying slowly – as is a small part of each child. Where we once had art, music, creativity, joy, love, learning through play, and autonomy – many of us now have endless testing and data collection, data entry, data analysis, and meetings upon meetings about data. The corporate reformers have sucked the life out of teaching and learning. The real purpose of education is lost in a blizzard of data – numbers entered onto a rubric to become bits of data – trillions of 0’s and 1’s about each child are flying at high speed, tracked and collecting in data banks like so many feet of snow to be mined for corporate profits – icy cold they create systems of punishment as dangerous crevices – an abyss of corporate created failure – a place devoid of all humanity for children and teachers to try to traverse.”
Sandra Korn, public school graduate who was a senior at Harvard College in 2013 explained why she was opposed to Teach for America: “It has become increasingly clear to anyone who thinks critically about teaching that there's something off with TFA's model. After all, TFA alumni repeatedly describe their stints in the American public education system as some of the hardest two years of their lives. Doesn't it bother you to imagine under-trained 22-year-olds standing in front of a crowded classroom and struggling through every class period? However, unpreparedness pales in comparison to the much larger problem with TFA: TFA undermines the American public education system from the very foundation by urging the replacement of experienced career teachers with a neoliberal model of interchangeable educators and standardized testing.” https://www.huffingtonpost.com/sandra-korn/why-i-said-no-to-teach-for-america_b_4151764.html
Teachers are Actually Dying due to Attacks by Fake Politicians
No politician in the nation has been more open about his hatred of teachers and their teachers union than billionaire backed Scott Walker. Scott Walker became governor of Wisconsin thanks to millions in hidden money from the billionaire Koch brothers. His first act was governor was to cut funding for public schools.
Gutting of school funding by billionaire backed political hacks like Walker can be extremely upsetting to teachers who devote their lives to helping children. Recently, teachers have committed suicide in several states. Here is one example from Wisconsin.
Wisconsin Teacher in Apparent Suicide, “Distraught” Over Walker’s Cuts
By Matthew Rothschild, March 17, 2011 Progressive.org
“Jeri-Lynn Betts, an early childhood teacher in the Watertown, Wisconsin, school district, died on March 8 of an apparent suicide. A colleague says she was “very distraught” over Gov. Scott Walker’s attacks on public sector workers and public education. Betts, 56, was a dedicated teacher who was admired in the Watertown community. “She was an amazing person,” says the Rev. Terry Larson of the Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church in Watertown, where she was a member. “She really put her heart and soul in her work,” adds Larson. “She was one of the good guys,” says Karen Stefonek, who used to teach with Betts. “She was very, very dedicated, and worked so well with the little special needs children. She just was very, very good with them, and very well respected in the district.” In his budget, Walker proposed taking $900 million out of the public schools. “She was definitely very distraught about it,” said one of her co-workers, who requested anonymity. “ Walker’s policies have “shredded the morale of teachers,” said Wisconsin State Assemblywoman Sondy Pope-Roberts on March 16. “The cuts to schools districts are going to be drastic.”
A former TFA teacher speaks out against TFA
This is what former TFA teacher Gary Rubeinstein said about why he opposed Teach for America: “The organization of TFA is a bit like a pyramid scheme. There are a bunch of VPs who are making a lot of money for a non-profit, certainly six figures. Then there are the majority of staffers, people who work in recruitment, teacher ‘effectiveness’, even the alumni team, IT, etc., who make much less. But regardless of the status of the TFA staffer, they all have one thing in common: They are all accessories to a $300 million annual fraud funded, in part, by taxpayers, and which has, I’m sorry to say, contributed to the weakening of the public school system which has, in turn, hurt innocent kids and, yes, their hard working teachers. https://garyrubinstein.teachforus.org/2013/11/15/my-advice-to-tfa-staffers-quit-for-america/
This is Gary's advice to TFA recruits:
“TFA is an organization that thrives on greed, deception, and fear. The deception, though, is the thing that is more relevant to you. Part of the deception is that they promote a very oversimplified view of their success. They would have you believe that a good percent of the new CMs [corps members] are way better than the ‘average’ teacher, mainly because of the high expectations of the CM. They may even say this is aided by the new high expectations of the fancy new common core standards.
Unfortunately, this oversimplified version of reality will lead you to struggle very much your first year, and to fail to be the teacher your students deserve.” https://garyrubinstein.wordpress.com/2014/06/12/advice-to-the-2014-tfa-corps-members/
What will happen to our nation if billionaires succeed in destroying our teachers and their unions?
Simply put, breaking teachers' unions is at the top of the billionaires agenda.
Unions not only protect the rights of teachers, they protect the rights of all of us. Here is what happened after Hitler banned all unions and was able to get complete control over the billionaire backed media and subject the people with massive hate filled propaganda campaigns.
What is Next?
In the next section, we will at another extremely unfair weapon of mass deception being used by billionaires and their hacks to fire teachers called Value Added Modeling (VAM).