TFA To Chicago Teachers: Our Recruits Will Not Replace You

Teach for America wants people to know that its recruits will not replace laid off Chicago Public School teachers.

Amid allegations that TFA recruits could replace some of the 1,036 teachers that have recently been laid off due to budgetary shortfalls, the executive director for the group’s Chicago region is speaking out to clear up some misconceptions.

In a Q&A with TFA blog Pass the Chalk on Wednesday, Josh Anderson explained that corps members are also being negatively impacted by the layoffs. He said the group’s teachers could not replace dismissed veterans.

The address comes after a July 19 Chicago Sun-Times article that stated, “teachers could be replaced by Teach For America recruits, as the district has committed to more than doubling its investment in the TFA program.”

Indeed, in late June, Chicago Public Schools agreed to support up to 325 new teachers and 245 second-year teachers for a cost of nearly $1.6 million — more than double what the district paid the organization last year.

Critics have lamented the idea that TFA –- an organization initially created to help districts with teacher shortages -– would be so present in a district that is dismissing thousands of staff members. As Kenzo Shibata notes in Jacobin Magazine, “school districts are firing huge swaths of educators due to budget cuts … One would think that at this point, TFA is no longer necessary.”

In his Q&A, Anderson responded to these criticisms, explaining that because the these positions are being eliminated, it is impossible for a TFA corps member to fill them. He also noted that, despite layoffs, CPS will still be hiring next year. Further, he noted that CPS principals are under no obligation to hire TFA corps members, and if they choose not to, then CPS will not pay the organization in full.

“This has been a difficult summer for Chicago children, families and our education community and I suspect the year ahead with by a challenging one as well,” Anderson said in the Q&A. “We are as committed as ever to doing whatever we can in partnership with veteran teachers of all backgrounds and principals, to stand by our kids and families and see our way through it.”

The past few weeks have not been easy for neither TFA nor CPS.

Protests regarding teacher layoffs and the recently released budget have broken out around Chicago. In addition, an incident in which a CPS principal allegedly axed a teacher by calling his mother –- rather than calling him directly -– has been widely publicized.

As for TFA, the group is suffering backlash from some of its own alumni. A group of former corps members met in Chicago several weeks ago at a conference called “Free Minds, Free People” where they criticized the organization on a panel.

In response to the panel, TFA representative Becky O’Neill said, “We have definitely been in touch and are eager to hear their takeaways from the conference,” according to RedEye Chicago.

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