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Parent Sues To Keep Teach For America Out Of Seattle

Phyllis Fletcher

A parent sued members of the Seattle School Board Friday in King County Superior Court, to keep Teach For America (TFA) out of Seattle schools. KUOW's Phyllis Fletcher explains.


TFA is like a domestic Peace Corps for public schools. Recent college grads are trained in the summer and start in the fall as teachers with a two–year commitment. TFA wants its teachers placed in poor and minority classrooms to help close the academic achievement gap.

The Seattle School Board voted last month to let members of TFA apply for jobs in Seattle schools. They would get conditional teaching certificates under a state rule that would call them highly qualified.

But a Ninth Circuit Court panel decided in September that putting conditionally certified teachers into poor and minority classrooms in California was discrimination. The Seattle lawsuit claims that ruling and Washington state law should have stopped the Seattle School Board from making an agreement with TFA.

Last month a school district lawyer answered a School Board member's questions about how that court decision affects Seattle. He said it wouldn't, because California and Washington have different rules about teacher certification. He said it was unlikely Seattle schools would face federal sanctions under the Ninth Circuit ruling, because the defendant in that case is the federal government — and the government has appealed.

The parent who filed the Seattle lawsuit doesn't see it that way. The state law she cited says School Board members may adopt policies that don't conflict with other laws.

As an added twist on Tuesday, someone in the US Senate put language in the appropriations bill that would have essentially invalidated the Ninth Circuit ruling. That bill was pulled off the table. The plaintiff's lawyer in the Ninth Circuit case is now on the lookout for that language to pop up in Congress again. That would make it easier for TFA to go into new cities — without a legal challenge like the one in Seattle.

I'm Phyllis Fletcher, KUOW News.

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