In June, the Cleveland School District entered into a contract with Teach for America, Inc. (TFA, Inc.) to have the entity provide beginning teachers to work in the district. The contract requires the school district to pay TFA, Inc. up to $9,000 just for the privilege of being able to hire the teacher for two years. That money is on top of the regular salary and benefits that are fully covered by the school district.
We’ve written a couple of posts about TFA, Inc. going back to March of 2011 when the Ohio General Assembly first passed laws that permitted these under-trained individuals to receive full licensure in the state of Ohio. If you’re unfamiliar with the organization, we recommend you go back and read our comprehensive analysis of the minimal requirements for TFA, Inc. teachers as compared to fully-trained graduates of Ohio’s teacher education programs.
In Cleveland, the contract they signed pays Teach for America, Inc. $4,000 for a teacher for their first year of work and pays the organization $5,000 for their second year. So, instead of the district’s Human Resources department identifying ad hiring qualified candidates in the scope the the district’s existing budget, the school system has agreed to fork over an additional $9,000 to TFA, Inc. to provide candidates with a scant 5 weeks of teacher training.
Does the district get any sort of break on compensation for these new hires? Absolutely not. As it is clearly spelled out in the TFA, Inc. contract:
School District shall provide to every Teacher employed by School District pursuant to this Agreement the same salary and benefits (including, as applicable, health, dental, vision and retirement) as are provided to other teachers employed by School District who are similarly situated from the standpoint of certification status, seniority and any other factors routinely used by School District in making such decisions.
So, the district is shelling out $9,000 as a finder’s fee to Teach for America, Inc., for the privilege of hiring individuals with training that falls far short of graduates of Ohio’s in-state education colleges. Awesome.
But that’s not all that shows up in this contract that should be of concern, especially to the Republicans (and Tea Party members) who opened the door for TFA, Inc. to do business in Ohio and who have been cutting funding to public schools and consistently preach for greater fiscal responsibility.
The Cleveland contract with TFA, Inc. expressly provides the company access to all student records, even giving TFA, Inc. the authority to share those records with third parties. In fact, the contract specifies that the school district will give Teach For America, Inc., rights to student records information on the same level as a “school official”.
School District shall include, in its annual notification of rights under FERPA, criteria that qualify Teach For America, in its capacity as a provider of professional development and data storage services, as a school official with a legitimate educational interest.
Considering that legislation introduced by Tea Partiers is pending in the Ohio House concerning the privacy of student information, we’re shocked that this requirement by TFA, Inc. to have complete access to student records hasn’t gotten more publicity.
And finally, the fees paid to TFA, Inc. by Cleveland are due the moment a teacher is hired and are completely non-refundable under any circumstance:
Non-refund. Teach For America shall have no obligation to refund to School District any amount paid by School District in respect of any Teacher for any reason whatsoever. For the avoidance of doubt, School District will be invoiced fees for each of the individual Teacher(s) initially employed by the School District.
So, if the teacher only lasts half a year, that money is lost. Even if that teacher makes it a full year before walking away, the district is out that $4,000 commitment and the cycle of constantly paying TFA, Inc. every year for new teachers is locked in. Since studies have shown that over 50% of TFA teachers leave after two years, this contract becomes a cash cow for TFA, Inc.
The Cincinnati Public School Board entered into a similar agreement with Teach for America, Inc. in February.
In large, urban school districts under state scrutiny and with Cleveland already sharing local tax dollars with charter schools, is paying Teach For America, Inc. $9,000 to bring in unprepared teachers from out of state really a wise use of Ohio’s limited dollars allocated for public education? Shouldn’t Ohio’s school districts be expressly focused on putting graduates of Ohio’s education colleges to work within our state? You know — helping get our in-state graduates in-state jobs?
Aren’t these the types of questions we keep hearing from the anti-tax crowd and Ohio’s Tea Party?
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Teach For America, Inc. has no business being in Ohio.