12/19/2013

Pittsburgh school board rescinds Teach for America contract

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Recent actions by the school board in Pittsburgh show what happens when educators, parents and the community work together to elect officials who represent their interests effectively. On Dec. 18, the Pittsburgh school board—which includes new members supported by the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers and its community allies—voted to reverse a contract with Teach for America.

The previous board had approved the $750,000 contract to hire 30 new TFA teachers by a 6-3 vote; the new board, which was elected this past spring and sworn in in December, rescinded the contract by almost the identical vote. A TFA official told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that this is the first time a school board has reversed a decision to bring Teach for America into a school district.

The school board took another positive action at the same meeting, voting to keep open a school that had been slated for closure.

The previous board's decision to contract with Teach for America came at the same time as the state's governor and local school officials were pursuing a "reform" agenda of budget cuts, school closures, and excessive reliance on high-stakes testing and ill-conceived teacher accountability plans.

This type of community action to reclaim the promise of public education through strong neighborhood schools extends far beyond Pittsburgh. As AFT President Randi Weingarten noted in her most recent column appearing in the New York Times, "Parents, students, educators, unions and community members share a desire for great neighborhood public schools that are safe, welcoming and collaborative. They have banded together with our union to push for this, as well as for more voice and transparency in public education, and against inadequate and inequitable funding and resources and the relentless emphasis on testing over teaching and learning."

The school board's new direction is in line with the mission of Great Public Schools Pittsburgh, a broad Pittsburgh community coalition working to create excellent neighborhood public schools for students from all backgrounds.[Dan Gursky, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

December 19, 2013