TFA in Boston Sparks Anger

Harvard TFA recruits express confidence in program’s relevance in the area

The Boston Teachers Union’s rejection of Teach for America earlier this month—based on the argument that corps members are replacing laid-off teachers—illuminates anxieties about a program that more Harvard students are flocking to than ever before.

Boston Public Schools plans to place TFA recruits in about 20 local positions, which Joshua Z. Biber, TFA recruiter for the greater Boston area, said was not a result of layoffs.

“Even with some potential cuts in some areas, they are still making hires in the district, particularly in subject areas and local areas of high need,” Biber said. “We are only looking to fill spots that will already be empty.”

But Richard F. Stutman, president of the Boston Teachers Union, said that about half of those positions are already filled by provisional teachers who will lose their jobs to TFA corps members.

“Teach for America claims that it does not come in and take positions from incumbent members. That is a lie,” Stutman said. “They are doing it in Boston. We have asked them nicely not to come into Boston and take the jobs of real live, incumbent teachers. Their arrogance is appalling.”

Stutman also added that Boston public schools, which do not have a shortage of “qualified candidates,” has no need for TFA teachers.

But Elizabeth A. Texeira ’09—one of the record-breaking 50 Harvard students who will join TFA next fall—said she believes Boston could benefit from the program.

“I think there’s always going to be some resistance to change when an organization comes in to fix a failing system,” she said. “I love Boston Public Schools but I also absolutely believe that there is a place for TFA here.”

Eve R. Meyer ’09 emphasized that the intention of TFA is to supplement, not replace, current teachers.

“We certainly would never want to displace a 30-year veteran teacher, but clearly Boston is an area they thought could use more teachers,” she said. “You’d think that everyone would be happy that there are people who want to teach and help students learn.”

Stutman also raised the concern that the short-term TFA recruits will be displacing union members who are better qualified.

Elizabeth B. Hadaway ’09, another TFA recruit, said, “I’m not sure why being a teacher for a long time is inherently a priority over being a good teacher. I think TFA prides itself on its model of no excuses and significant gains.”

Stutman said that he is not opposed to the TFA program, but believes that its introduction to Boston was handled poorly.

“They are doing a disservice to their own members, their own people and to the mission of their own organization by forcing this issue,” he said.

—Staff writer Sofia E. Groopman can be reached at segroopm@fas.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Michelle L. Quach can be reached at mquach@fas.harvard.edu.