Why School Boards Love Temporary Teachers

young teacherAll over the country, school districts who do not have a teacher shortage — the most recent is Buffalo, New York — are trying to bring in Teach for America corps members to staff their schools. Why any school district would want to bring in teachers who have been trained for five weeks and have no classroom experience to replace teachers with years of training, experience, and mentoring would seem to defy common sense unless one considers the budgetary considerations at stake.

Since few Teach for America teachers stay beyond their two-year commitment in the schools they are assigned to, there is a huge saving in pension costs for using them over teachers likely to stay till they are vested. Having a temporary teaching force also gives a school board greater flexibility in assigning teachers, and in closing old schools and re-opening new ones. It also, in the long run, will totally destroy the power of teachers unions in the district, allowing for costs savings that can be invested in increased testing and evaluation protocols.

In a time of austerity, these economic considerations easily trump educational and social ones:

  • Does it really matter if students can’t develop long-term relationships with their teachers because they come an go with great rapidity?
  • Does it really matter if the majority of teachers leave before they achieve a minimum level of mastery of their subject?
  • Does the loss of classroom authority and control on the part of teachers thrown into classrooms cold really make much of a difference?
  • Does the elimination of teaching as a lifetime profession for people-especially women-from working class communities to aspire to really affect the economic stability of those communities?

mark naisonFor school districts looking for a quick fix to budget problems and labor problems, those questions are easily shunted aside. But the long term damage that turning teaching into “temp work” inflicts is very very real, though it may take years for school boards to understand what the consequences of their policies are for the most t under served students and wounded communities.

Mark Naison
With A Brooklyn Accent

Tuesday, 25 February 2013

Image: Big Stock Photo


  1. readdoctor says

    In my discussions with Black teachers in Connecticut and Florida I hear TFA(s) are being used to replace certified Black teachers. Research indicates Black teachers are effective for all students. The number of minority teachers in America is decreasing at the very time we need a more diverse teaching force. A repeated comment I hear from Black teachers in poor urban schools about TFA teachers is they are replacing Black teachers in local schools. Researchers might start looking at the make up of TFA(s) being use to displace Black teachers, and other minority teachers. This is certainly an area we are encouraging our doctoral students to research. This is not to say that traditional teacher preparation is doing enough to develop a more diverse teaching force. There are more important questions we should be discussing beyond test scores and cost savings. We should be looking at all teacher preparation programs in regards to how sincere their efforts to develop a more diverse teaching force.
    A personal annotated note: I am 57, I only had 4 Black teachers in my K-12 years. My daughter is 24, and she had no Black teachers in her K-12 years.
    It is time to talk about closing the Black teacher gap,

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