Does Teach for America Leave Black Lives Behind?

The corporate reform movement often frames its work as promoting civil rights for children of color and TFA echos this in their marketing.  But, given the role of the financial backers of corporate reform and TFA in the growing inequity facing communities of color, should black lives matter activists be partnering with TFA and corporate reformers?  Educators in Philadelphia and NY argue that no they should not.  Below are some brief excerpts with links to the original pieces.

The Caucus of Working Educators Racial Justice Committee, a social justice caucus within the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, recently published an open letter to DeRay Mckesson, a leading figure in the Black Lives Matter movement (and TFA alum), arguing that TFA actually threatens the black lives matter movement.  They write, “We see Teach for America as working in opposition to the goals of publicly funded education for all students in Philadelphia and to the goal of increasing the number of teachers of color and teachers who are committed to building relationships with communities over the long term, which we see as an integral component of culturally responsive teaching. We view the hiring of cadres of racial, cultural, and geographical outsiders with very little teaching preparation as part of a larger neoliberal effort to privatize education and replace unionized teachers (many of whom are teachers of color) with young, inexperienced teachers (most of whom are white and do not intend to stay in the teaching profession and commit to the long-term improvement of their teaching practice).”

(Also recall TFA founder Wendy Kopp’s clueless tweet about Philly schools and it’s understandable why TFA is not trusted there)

In Teach for America leaves Black Lives behind, veteran NY educator Brian Jones goes further in pointing out that “TFA is part of this privatization “movement”–led by millionaires and billionaires like Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Stanley Druckenmiller and more–that is using genuine grievances and frustrations of oppressed communities to break up one of the last remaining strongholds of the public sector: K-12 schools.”

He concludes with “If the Black Lives Matter movement is to grow, it must “connect the dots” between the struggle for justice in the streets and the struggle for justice in the schools. TFA is, in my view, on the wrong side of one of those struggles, which, at the very least, calls into question its ability to play a role in the other.”

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