At the Dec. 5 SDEA Board meeting two guests joined the meeting: SDUSD School Board member Richard Barrera and David Lopez, a Teach For America (TFA) community organizer. TFA is a program designed to bring educators to “high need” areas of the country, and Barrera is its leading proponent here in San Diego. It’s unclear what leads Barrera or his colleagues who have voted to lay thousands of us off multiple times to believe that we are an area in “high need” of more teachers — particularly teachers who don’t even have a teaching credential yet, which is the case with TFA’s undergrad-to-classroom program. To learn more about TFA, read this recent article from NPR in which they interviewed a TFA graduate.
Ironically, immediately prior to Barrera’s arrival, SDEA President Bill Freeman was discussing SDEA’s plan to hold accountability sessions with each School Board member in the months to come. Barrera ended up getting a sneak preview of his accountability session when he introduced the surprise guest he brought along (apparently without letting the SDEA Board know ahead of time), Lopez. Barrera was there to defend his plan to bring TFA to our District, and SDEA Board members did a great job of making sure he understood their displeasure at his efforts to bring TFA to SDUSD. Unfortunately, despite their efforts to persuade him otherwise, Barrera and all four other School Board members (including Marne Foster and John Lee Evans, both of whom our union just endorsed and campaigned to get elected) voted to bring TFA here after all — read HERE for the post about the School Board meeting where it happened.
Richard Barrera Introduces Two Resolutions
Barrera introduced two resolutions that he intended to propose to the SDUSD School Board. The first sounds sensible — working to support a pipeline of local students who want to become teachers and helping them to achieve this goal and to become a teacher in SDUSD. It has always been evident that the demographics of teachers in our District differs greatly from our student population. In addition, the resolution would also support teachers who are already in SDUSD. This idea was later approved by the SDEA Board in concept, when SDEA Vice President Lindsay Burningham made a motion to support this idea.
The second resolution included bringing TFA to SDUSD. Barrera said he disagrees with TFA’s methods in the past. He said wants to try a hybrid approach with Lopez, which includes working with SDEA in a partnership. Barrera also stated that no TFA teacher would get a position ahead of a credentialed teacher who had already been on a waiting list, or ahead of any pink slipped teachers. Regardless of Barrera’s attempt to fashion a new, more inclusive, and less anti-union TFA program for San Diego, our Board, with good reason, rejected the idea of any TFA program being started in SDUSD.
Board members voiced their opinions making clear arguments against TFA. Here are some of the highlights of their arguments:
- We already have good, credentialed teachers in SDUSD who can’t get a contract. Many of them have been waiting for years, working on temporary contract after temporary contract.
- TFA teachers only have one month of training. That is unacceptable for our students. They can pay for, and go through the credential program like the rest of us.
- Based on our research, TFA teachers often assume that public school teachers are failing at our jobs, and are primarily anti-union.
- Schools south of I-8 would more likely end up with TFA teachers, meaning our most economically disadvantaged students would end up with the least qualified teachers.
- Why would we pay TFA $5,000 per “teacher” recruited when we don’t even have our own pay reinstated and our budget for this year is so uncertain? OR when our own already-credentialed new teachers are being billed $3,000 for BTSA?
- TFA teachers leave the teaching profession after two years. That is also unacceptable for our students and schools.
- Teachers, many of whom have years of experience, a credential, and post graduate degree(s), are repeatedly pink slipped. In this type of environment we should not be bringing in uncredentialed people to potentially take our spots.
SDEA Executive Director’s Report
SDEA Executive Director Tim Hill reported on the District’s budget, the new state special education autism requirement, and ECE teachers.
This meeting came on the heels of the SDUSD Board meeting where the preliminary budget for 2013-14 was presented to the surprise of many, since it included an 80 million dollar deficit, and 55 million budgeted for pink slips (read more HERE). Hill adamantly and repeatedly stated that there is absolutely no validity to this budget, and that at this point in December, it is all projections.
He suggested that we wait until the second and third projections before taking any of it seriously. Hill went on to explain that the County requires this early budget that is all based on only three months of the school year. He also explained that we will have a better idea of the “real” budget after the Governor releases his initial budget in January, but it might not be until May to really know what the budget will look like.
As with anything our union tells us, we hope that Hill is right. We hope that this is a budget blown way out of proportion and that no teachers will be harassed with pink slips this year. At the same time, the “fake budget” projections that our District was considering at this time last year ended up being the one they used to lay off 1,500 of us in March, and the same one they used to leverage our contract open in June. Rather than adopting a “wait and see” approach, our union should be leading members in putting continuous pressure on the School Board to ensure that everyone is working towards a pink-slip-free spring.
As far as the autism requirement that is putting much unneeded stress on our Special Education colleagues, Hill stated that SDEA is bargaining with SDUSD to relieve the cost burden of this requirement, but that nothing has officially been set in stone as of yet. He stated that the District has agreed to pay at least some part for some Special Educators to receive the training. The training will include up to four classes and some will be online.
Hill also reported on the ECE bargaining and said that it could be going better. They are bargaining the school year for these educators, and their rights to have proper notification when their work year is to be changed.
— by Emily Neidhard, Garfield AR