The following comment was recently submitted and approved to one of my previous posts:

“We have 550 Teach For America teachers in the Delta this year, and the 60% who stay in education after their two-year commitment aren’t staying in Mississippi… they’re going to charter schools in other states. You tell me: are kids in the Delta better off or worse off when we’re bleeding some of our most passionate young teachers to other states’ charter schools?”

Thus enters the newest player in Mississippi’s ongoing charter school debate — the national organization called Teach For America.

Teach For America recruits college grads from around the country to teach in high-poverty areas like the Mississippi Delta for a minimum of two years. A degree in Education is not required of TFA “Corps Members”, although, according to this article from the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, TFA members receive the same salary and benefits as a first-year traditional teacher with a four-year degree in Education.

In today’s post, you will hear no criticisms of the good work that TFA’ers are doing in the areas of our state that need the most help. As for me, I could not last two days in any classroom, much less two years. I applaud the efforts of not only the 520 TFA’ers working in Mississippi, but the more than 33,000 traditional K-12 teachers in our state — many of whom are career educators who have been fighting the good fight for as long as I have been alive.

What I would like to talk about, however, is the connection between Teach For America and the push for charter schools in the Magnolia State and across the country.

The reader who submitted the above comment is a former TFA’er who recently taught at Greenwood High School(I know this because we follow each other on Twitter and frequently discuss education). Interestingly enough, he is now employed as Communications Director for the state’s leading critic of public education/proponent of charter schools, the Mississippi Center for Public Policy.

At the national level, the founder and CEO of Teach For America is married to the President of the KIPP foundation, which serves one of the nation’s largest chain of charter schools(including Mississippi charter proponents’ poster child of “school choice”, the Kipp Delta Prep school in neighboring Arkansas).

The connections between TFA and the movement for charter schools are obvious. The question is “why”?



About The Public School Warrior

I am a product of Mississippi's public schools.
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  1. sfoley123 says:

    “follow the $$$$”

  2. JBillings says:

    TFA needs to change their two year commitment to stop the “bleeding of passionate young teachers”

  3. Josh says:

    Bottom line: charter schools offer hope, and a promise that things can be differently, and that’s vastly appealing to corps members. At the end of the day, corps members are working to change public schools that are pretty broken, and they get frustrated with feeling like they’re constantly working against the tide. At charter schools, these teachers have a chance to serve the same students, in a like-minded environment, where they feel like they have far less obstacles to giving kids the education they want to give them.

    Local public school districts often feel like intractable machines. Charter schools feel like places where teachers can have a voice and actively participate in change. That’s a big deal.

    • Josh, every single thing you just said about charter schools can be said about hundreds of traditional public schools throughout Mississippi. It is all about who is leading the school. When a community demands strong leadership of its local public schools, positive change will happen. Public schools in a community that accepts failure will continue to fail — with or without charter schools.

  4. Josh says:

    It can be said about hundreds of traditional charter schools. The argument here isn’t that traditional public schools are always right and that charter schools are always wrong. The argument is that there are some environments that need something different.

    We’re talking about Delta communities with a real lack of human capital where any positive leadership isn’t sustained. The public can demand all the want–the human capital isn’t there to meet their demands.

    More than that, what do you when people don’t know what to demand? Charters are a way to put high-performing schools in THEIR communities, teaching THEIR children, showing them what’s possible, and what they should advocate for.

    We could argue all day about whether that’s right, or effective, or whatever, but at the end of that, THAT opportunity is what CMs are seeing that draws them to charters.

    • In my opinion, it is our duty as Americans to instruct our fellow citizens as to what rights they have and how to go about exercising those rights. This can be done without reinventing the American education system. Appointing Superintendents as opposed to electing them would go a long way in improving the situation in the Delta and elsewhere.

      I strongly disagree with the idea that there is a “lack of human capital” in the Delta and, even though I don’t live in the Delta, I kind of take offense to this statement as a Mississippian and as a member of the human race. I do think, however, that there is a serious lack of community-wide support for public education in the Delta and throughout Mississippi.

  5. Josh says:

    I agree, but I also think we have a right to give kids the education they deserve. My fundamental assumption isn’t that the greatest good is that public school districts stay open. The greatest good is that every kid gets the kind of education that allows her to have access to the same education as her more affluent peers. I honestly don’t care if that happens in traditional public schools or in charter schools. I don’t have any interest in maintaining the system. The current public school system, I thoroughly believe, is a means to an end, not the end in itself. If there’s a better way to get to that end, we should be pursuing it.

    I do realize the possibly offensive implications of my statement, but I stand by it. There’s plenty of talent that originates in the Delta, but those talented people rarely stay there. That’s just the reality of the current landscape.

  6. Josh says:

    I reiterate my earlier commitment: The greatest good is that every kid gets the kind of education that allows her to have access to the same education as her more affluent peers. I honestly don’t care if that happens in traditional public schools or in charter schools.

    It’s not an either/or issue.

    • Charter schools are funded by the same pool of funds as traditionals. When a charter opens up down the street from a traditional, is the kid in the traditional who doesn’t get into the charter more or less likely to receive an education like that of his more affluent peers?

      • Josh says:

        To be honest, I’m confused as to your motive in this thread. This public/charter argument is a rabbit hole we could go down forever. I’m just trying to answer the why question you initially posed. I’d love to talk about that more, but honestly, I’m not interesting in discussing the wrong/right of public/charter.

      • I appreciate your answer and the discussion. My motive is to promote what works in traditional public education and replicate that throughout the state without building separate schools.

  7. Pingback: CHARTER SCHOOLS, TAKE TWO. | The Public School Warrior

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