Weather Underground terrorist-turned-academic and Obama confidant William Ayers is taking up a cause near and dear to teachers unions: bashing a program that sends young, idealistic college grads into the inner city to teach poor kids.
The nonprofit Teach for America is a “fraud” whose participants are nothing but “educational tourists,” said Ayers, a onetime associate of President Obama who was a professor in the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago before retiring. The 68-year-old firebrand, now a self-styled educational theorist, said the program’s young grads are merely passing through the gritty neighborhoods where they serve to pad their resumes at the expense of longer-term educators represented by unions.
“It’s a fraud on every level because it’s not going to change teaching, it’s going to undermine teaching,” Ayers said at a recent educational summit. He added that the young teachers “are the nicest kids in the world,” but said the program itself is misguided.
Teachers unions have long criticized Teach for America, which they believe provides cash-strapped districts with a crop of short-timers who earn entry-level pay and don’t rack up the health and retirement costs of regular teachers.
The nonprofit Teach For America annually recruits thousands of top college graduates to teach for two years at public schools in low-income areas across the country. Its stated mission is to “eliminate educational inequity by enlisting high-achieving recent college graduates and professionals” to teach in low-income neighborhoods. Participants’ benefits and salaries, which range from $25,500 to $51,000, depending on where they serve, are paid by the local districts and match the compensation of regular hires.
Ayers, whose comments were echoed by Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, said the young teachers themselves aren’t to blame, but indicated they are never truly vested in the schools in which they serve. Lewis went even further, saying TFA’s policies “kill and disenfranchise children from schools across this nation.”
Let’s see: young, idealistic, energetic kids putting their fresh college degrees to use in inner-city schools for low-to-middling pay, but no long-term cost.
The nerve! No wonder the educational establishment hates the idea. It threatens their very existence.
I confess a personal interest: I know someone who was a Teach for America trainee, and the experience changed her life. And I know she touched (if not changed) the kids’ lives. Being against Teach for America is like being against… the Peace Corps. The Boy Scouts. Candy Stripers.