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School Board Postpones Hiring Of Last Two Teach For America Teachers

Phyllis Fletcher
09/09/2011

The Seattle School Board has put off approval of its last two teachers in the Teach for America program. It's a private nonprofit that's like a domestic Peace Corps for teaching. The board was scheduled to approve the last two of five hires Wednesday night. KUOW's Phyllis Fletcher has more.

TRANSCRIPT

The board had to vote on a request to Washington state to let the new potential hires from Teach for America apply for conditional teaching certificates.

They need those to teach in public schools. They don't have them because they're fresh out of college, and their only training has been this summer with Teach for America (TFA).

TFA charges the Seattle district $4,000 for each hire. District staff have promised the money will come from private donors.

Since last year, the district has asked the board to approve three votes on TFA without saying where that $4,000 per teacher is coming from. They have also promised it will not come from the Seattle School budget.

This week, board member Michael DeBell said he needed to know where the money was coming from. Not for budget reasons, but because the public deserves to know whose money is financing the agenda of a private organization in public schools.

And Superintendent Susan Enfield said:

Enfield: "I don't have that right now. And I want to be clear too that TFA's deadline for payment is the end of October — so, to be very honest, I — understand, now, the desire to have this information. Given that we had more time, I wasn't pushing that, just because we've had other things to do. So that's the only reason."

Board member Sherry Carr asked her about it very directly last month, too. Enfield said she would reveal the source once the district knows it will have TFA teachers in its schools. That has happened.

DeBell called it an awkward situation.

Sherry Carr tried to get the answer from Teach for America almost a year ago. She asked three times, in a public meeting. Janis Ortega from TFA took five minutes to answer her other questions. Then she said TFA raises all of its funding locally.

Ortega: "And our funders are the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Bezos Foundation, The Raikes Foundation and the Seattle Foundation, to date. We still have a funding gap that we're pursuing to close."

The TFA website shows those four groups, and JP Morgan Chase, have given over a million dollars.

Board members voted to table a decision on the two teachers for two weeks. School has started. The district plans to let the two TFA teachers teach as substitutes until this is ironed out. I'm Phyllis Fletcher, KUOW News.

© Copyright 2011, KUOW

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