Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Organizing Resistance to Teach for America Coalition for Public Education/Coalición por la Educación Pública

Coalition for Public Education/Coalición por la Educación Pública:

Organizing Resistance to Teach for America

by Kerry Kretchmar and Beth Sondel

 In July 2013, we were two of the facilitators of the “Organizing Resistance to Teach For America and Its Role in Privatization” people’s assembly at the Free Minds, Free People conference in Chicago. Our goals were to learn from those fighting for equity in communities and help connect the myriad resistance efforts to TFA—in communities, among TFA alumni, and on college campuses where TFA participants are recruited. The planning committee included parents, community activists, veteran teachers, and TFA alumni. Together, we learned more about TFA and made some important advances in resistance. We also made some mistakes. Here is our story so far.

Why Organize?

Will we seize the moment? I challenge us to make this our Egypt moment, folks. Our country can’t wait. –Joel Klein, TFA 20th Anniversary Summit
We watched incredulously. There we were, celebrating TFA’s 20th anniversary in a room with 11,000 other TFA alumni. In addition to Klein (then-chancellor of the New York City schools), speakers at the plenary included Michelle Rhee, Dave Levin, Geoffrey Canada, John Deasy, and other high-profile promoters of market-based reform. The messages from the panelists were consistent and dire: Schools are in crisis; ineffective or lazy teachers and the union that protects them are to blame. The solution lies in the radical transformation of our public school system, which must, they argued, be led and staffed by those in the room. And then it became surreal: Joel Klein compared TFA to the democratic revolution then erupting in Egypt, prompting the crowd to rise to their feet cheering.
We attended the summit as critical alumni and as graduate students researching TFA. Speaker after speaker promoted market-based solutions: charter district reform, deregulation of teacher education, and merit-based pay. And focused on the role of TFA alumni in promoting these efforts. We arrived at the summit with strong reservations and left with the unequivocal understanding that TFA has fully embraced a corporate-sponsored agenda. After we returned from this pep rally for privatization, we began to trace the connections between TFA and corporate reform.
Through our research, we realized that TFA has emerged as a primary supplier of teachers and leaders for the expansion of charters at the school, local, regional, and national level. The organization has done an unparalleled Coalition for Public Education/Coalición por la Educación Pública: