Friday, February 3, 2012

Teach for America and the Transformation of the US into a Low Wage Nation

More and more, Teach for America seems to be an instrument for union busting by local school districts. Here's the scenario: A local school district is having budget problems. They lay off, or fire veteran teachers, then bring in Teach for America to replace them. The school districts saves millions of dollars in labor costs, short run, and even more money in the long because of reduced pension costs. The students lose because teachers who devoted their lives to their profession, and live in the community, are replaced by sojourners trained for five weeks who rarely stay beyond their two year commitment. But the community also loses because a sector of the local labor force which has decent pay and benefits is destroyed, thereby making it easier for employers in the private sector to keep wages low. Make no mistake about it, union busting, though it may reduce the tax burden on residents of municipalities and states, accelerates the transition of the United States as a low wage nation ruled by a wealthy elite of CEO's and managers. Teach for America, by actively accelerating this transition, is doing deadly damage to the young people it is trying to help by insuring they graduate into a labor force where work opportunities, for all but a small minority, are low paying and insecure. Those young people who seek to become part of this once admirable organization need to very carefully examine what its role in the United States social and economic system is TODAY.

1 comment:

Debbie H said...

Mark - it is intriguing to me that you assume that all of those who were laid off were"teachers who devoted their lives to their profession, and live in the community". Really? Most cities do not require teachers to live in the adjoining area and thus they do not. Furthermore, if you take a look at the statistics, some regions boast more than 80% of Teach for America teachers stay beyond their first year. Are those teachers not also "devoted to their profession"? Do you know any Teach for America teachers or their students? Be careful that you don't assume that one who becomes a teacher "traditionally" is a more serious professional or cares more about the trajectory of the lives of their students. In fact, you might see quite the opposite.