Bridgeport · Students

Bridgeport BOE Attacks TFA Despite Teacher Shortages

Yet again, Teacher for America (TFA), a non-profit organization that has helped bring young talent into the district, is under attack by the Bridgeport Board of Education.

At last Monday’s regular meeting, the board decided that they are going to do an “evaluation” of the program. This came after the personnel committee got together for a bashing session, last Wednesday, to “review” the district’s contract with the non-profit.

Of course, like most things having to do with the Bridgeport’s board, this sudden need to evaluate TFA has a lot more to do with politics than anything actually based in fact.

TFA is an easy target because there are so many misconceptions floating around about the organization. For example: board members have said that a majority of TFA teachers leave education. Whereas, in reality, 67 percent nationally choose to stay in the field.

Another reason TFA is a target is because national teacher’s unions are not exactly fond of the concept behind TFA. Which is probably why Sauda Baraka and her former cohort Maria Pereira — both bankrolled by the unions — spent most of the 2012-13 board session bashing the organization every chance they got.

TFA is critical in helping districts like Bridgeport fill gaps in high-demand subject area like math and science, where it is increasingly difficult to find qualified candidates.

During last Wednesday’s personnel committee, after members blasted TFA, Human Resources Director Kathleen Jaeger responded by explaining to the board that “people are not going into the shortage areas”.

At the moment, there are 22 math, science and special education classrooms in Bridgeport that do not have permanent teachers and are currently using substitute teachers to fill in the gaps, according to Jaeger.

That’s an appalling statistic, but not very surprising. There isn’t much incentive for young math and science teachers, who are in high demand across the country, to work in Bridgeport. Especially not when districts like New Haven offer merit pay and housing assistance. Not to mention, places right next door like Fairfield and Trumbull pay new teachers between $7,000 and $10,000 more a year.

The scary part is that it could have been worse. The number of teacher-less classrooms would have been closer to 37, but 14 vacant high-demand positions were filled by TFA teachers.

So, I ask again, what exactly is the board’s plan? Since they’re so intent on getting rid of TFA, how will they replace those teachers?



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