BESE member: Lure educators from within state
Capitol news bureau
August 24, 2012
A member of Louisiana’s top school board said Wednesday that it would be a mistake for the state to spend nearly $1 million to train and place public school teachers provided by a national group.
“It is a replication of services,” said Lottie Beebe, a member of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education who lives in Breaux Bridge.
But BESE President Penny Dastugue called the spending an excellent investment to train some of the nation’s top college graduates for work in Louisiana’s hardest-to-fill teacher jobs.
“Who doesn’t want a rich talent pool to draw from?” Dastugue said.
The $968,000 contract is for Teach for America, which recruits college students, puts them through five weeks of intense training and sends them to some of the most troubled public schools in the nation for at least two years.
The money would be used to train and place just over 500 teachers in classrooms around the state.
About 140 first- and second-year teachers work in the East Baton Rouge Parish school system or within an hour’s drive of Baton Rouge.
Nearly 900 other alumni from TFA, mostly teachers, also work in public schools across the state.
The issue, which was originally on BESE’s agenda for the Aug. 14-15 meetings, sparked controversy last week during a committee meeting, in part because of Beebe’s questions about a delay in action on the contracts.
Dastugue said Wednesday that attorneys advised the panel to put off the issue until October.
BESE is expected to approve the contract then.
Beebe, who is personnel director for the St. Martin Parish school system, said in a telephone interview that she routinely contacts the state Department of Education to round up teacher candidates.
“Why don’t we spend the million dollars within our state to entice graduates to consider teaching?” Beebe said in an email that elaborated her stance.
“Louisiana has graduates,” she added. “Why do we have to look elsewhere?”
Dastugue said TFA typically turns down nine applicants for each one hired.
She said those graduates, generally speaking, have better credentials than those who emerge from colleges of education.
The nearly $1 million represents less than 10 percent of TFA’s statewide budget, said Michael Tipton, executive director of Teach for America/South Louisiana.
He said that, while the issue is one for state policymakers, he wishes that Louisiana’s contribution was closer to that of Mississippi, which provides $6 million annually.
Beebe said local districts also pay TFA between $2,500 and $4,000 per teacher per year to help defray costs of recruiting and training.
While the key contract is nearly $1 million in state funds, two others set for BESE review would be funded by other sources and cover 65 teachers in schools run by the state.
The latest dispute is similar to one that surfaced last year when BESE considered a similar contract.
The 11-member panel approved that contract despite some complaints that the money could be better spent elsewhere, and that certified, non-TFA teachers are going without jobs.
Some educators from traditional backgrounds have questioned the credentials and commitment of TFA members.
But a report by the state Department of Education said that, during the 2010-11 school year, nearly half of Louisiana’s Teach for America teachers produced student academic growth equal to one-and-a-half years of schooling.