I am writing this letter to the editor to clarify what I stated publicly at the June 19th BESE meeting. I began my presentation by thanking all educators in Louisiana for their commitment to improving educational outcomes for our students. Additionally:
• I praised the efforts of teachers and school leaders who are embracing the challenges of school reform despite the haphazard and hasty implementation.
• I stated it is a “sad day in Louisiana when we start “pitting” one group against the other – a transparent strategy employed by John White to divide and conquer;” and
• There are many challenges in today’s classrooms for both Teach for America (TFA) and traditional teachers.
At last Tuesday’s BESE Committee meeting, I listened to supporters of TFA who suggested that TFA teachers are more effective than traditional teachers. I will acknowledge my temper flared; specifically, when I heard John White suggest that TFA teachers are more effective than traditional educators. His evidence was “look at the number of students in failing schools suggesting those teachers prepared by our Louisiana colleges as being responsible for the failure,” which ignores the impact of poverty on our students and the lack of resources for our schools. [BESE Rep.] Holly Boffy stated her support of TFA because “traditional systems do not offer support and assistance to their teachers.” I emphatically disagreed.
Superintendent White recanted his comments last Wednesday stating, “TFA teachers are needed in remote areas where traditional teachers are not available.” For the record, I have always stated the TFA Corp Members are fulfilling a purpose and are great people. My issue does not lie with the individual TFA teacher. My issue lies with BESE for contracting with TEACH for AMERICA – paying $2 million dollars to a “staffing agency” for 25 teachers at $32,800 per recruit. The justification offered was “the contractor will assist the Recovery School District in teacher recruitment.” One of my issues with this arrangement is that school districts are also required to pay approximately $5,000 per TFA teacher hired within their respective districts bringing the tally for a single recruit up to $32,800 in addition to their salary.
It is evident that our state superintendent of education has an alliance to Teach for America. Some might say I have one with traditional public educators. I don’t think we will ever agree because of White’s condescending view of Louisiana, our teachers and our citizens. To prove my point, just take a morning stroll through the Claiborne Building parking garage on Third Street, where LDOE is housed, and count the number of out-of-state license plates.
Lottie P. Beebe
Representative, BESE District 3