Teach for America: Minnesota shouldn’t need it


by John Fitzgerald | August 11, 2009 • Kudos to the Teach for America volunteers. We appreciate their efforts, but frankly, we shouldn’t be in a position to need their services.

Hindsight is the official blog of Minnesota 2020. Hindsight gives the run down on the news that jumps out at us on the issues that matter. Often times these stories show us how much further we need to go to have the progressive policy realized in Minnesota.

Teach for America works like this: Forty recent graduates from some of America’s top universities will work this fall in metro area classrooms hoping to close the achievement gap between minority and white students. These recent graduates, who are not licensed teachers, will hit the schools with eight weeks of training and the promise of mentoring and continuing education as the year progresses. They will be paid with grants and donations made to the Teach for America program. That means free labor for Minnesota schools.

The students will be placed in schools with the highest achievement gaps – mostly in Minneapolis but also in districts such as Brooklyn Center. They will supplement the efforts of teachers already in the classroom.

Here’s the problem: These districts, and others throughout the state, have been forced to lay off thousands of teachers because of state budget cuts to education – an inflation-adjusted 13 percent since 2003.

That means there are thousands of trained, licensed, experienced teachers in Minnesota looking for work. Why are we not finding funding to place 40 of those teachers in classrooms to assist current teachers to close the achievement gap?

The best-case scenario is for the state to fully fund education so schools have enough teachers to attack the achievement gap.

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