Teach for America, STEM Washington and Bill Gates

When our former Broad superintendent hurriedly pushed through the proposal, her edict, to bring Teach for America to Seattle with the assistance of our interim superintendent and then school board president Michael DeBell, many of us asked where the money would come from to pay the $4,000 per TFA, Inc. recruit each year.

We were told that there would be a “private funder” who would pay that expense. I rolled my eyes when I heard that coming out of our former supe’s mouth. I knew that I had two guesses, either the Gates Foundation or the Broad Foundation would be picking up the tab, at least for the first year and we would be stuck with the bill the next year if either one of them got bored with their notion of education reform.

Now we have found out that STEM Washington will be footing the initial bill of $475,000 to bring Teach for America recruits to Federal Way and Seattle. I decided to follow the money on this one and it was a short trip. Bill Gates provided STEM Washington with a grant for $10M this year. Can money buy a little influence?

Most of you who read this blog know this but it bears repeating for others who might not know, Bill Gates is big on charter schools and charter schools are staffed by non-union teachers, basically cheap labor to keep cost down. The corporate reformers have figured that the most expensive item on their tally sheet are teachers so to make a profit they hire non-union labor in the form of Teach for America recruits. TFA, Inc. recruits, most of them straight out of college, receive 5 weeks of training, sign a contract to teach for two years and then they are off and running in mostly low-income communities where the last thing needed is more churn.

Bill Gates gave Teach for America $2,500,000 last year to open an office in the Puget Sound, meaning the Seattle area.

Bill Gates is big on TFA, Inc. at least in other people’s schools.

There are so many ironies in all of this. We have great and experienced teachers in science and math, we have Teaching Assistants with degrees in education who are gaining the experience necessary to become competent teachers, we have four colleges of education in Seattle, we have high schools in our district that need real science labs and we have a STEM Cleveland that doesn’t have enough science related materials for their classes so they are foregoing a Department Head to pay for the materials and will instead divide up the duties of a department head.

Why is Bill Gates spending so much money on untrained recruits who will not even commit to our communities and not on what is truly needed?

The quick answer is because he has never listened to us as parents and teachers, as educators or administrators. He has no idea how our district works or anything about our schools.

He lives five minutes from Seattle, just over the 520 bridge, and yet is miles away from what is happening and simply giving money where it is least needed or not needed at all.

We don’t need Teach for America in Seattle, Mr. Gates, but if you would bother to come over the bridge one day and talk to parents, teachers and students, we’ll tell you what is truly needed in our town.

Post Script:

Speaking of following the money, Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America, Inc. received $50M from the Department of Education last year thanks to Arne Duncan and $50M from private donations for a total of $100M and yet districts still have to pay for the privilege of having inexperienced and unqualified teachers in our schools. So where is the money going? The recruits receive 5 weeks of training, which the district pays for, and a salary from the school district. Hmmm. Definitely something to look into. I know that a lot of the money goes into marketing but that still is a lot of cash for Ms. Kopp.

Cashing in on ed reform? I believe so.

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