Sunday, March 17, 2019

An Open Letter To TFA Re: Strikes

We appear to be between teacher strikes at the moment, so this might be a good time to draw attention to Seth Kahn's open letter to Teach for America.

When the Oakland teachers walked out, there was some question about what TFAers should or should not do. A previous open letter from TFA alumni suggested that guidance from TFA leadership was that honoring a strike would cost the TFA members. TFA was quick to say, "No, they should totally follow their conscience, and that the striking penalty is part of Americorps policy. It's worth noting that as quoted by the Associated Press, the TFA leadership did not say, "There will absolutely not be a penalty for striking." It's pretty clear that TFAers would lose a chunk money.

TFA members are stuck in a spot when strikes occur.

Kahn is a professor at West Chester University of PA. He has written an open letter to the TFA CEO, asking that the organization both help to supplement the financial losses of any TFA members that strike, as well as work with Americorps to change the rules.

As Kahn notes, it might be easier to sympathize with TFA if it did not have such a long history of supplanting career teachers while undermining unions and disrupting the profession, not to mention promoting a narrative of inadequate and failing public school teachers as a menace from which TFA must rescue students. But while many TFAers are transient edutourists on a resume-building gap year, there are also many who mean well, and even a few who go on to become dedicated and committed teachers.

I walked into a strike in my very first year on my very first job-- it's a rough way to get started.

So go take a look at Kahn's letter and consider adding your name. TFA still has a chance to pursue some policy changes before the next batch of teachers walks out. Here's his conclusion:

As long as striking is legal, and as long as TFA members can join unions, it is unethical for TFA to discourage participation in strikes, and more so while pretending not to be doing it. Furthermore, although many supporters of teacher unions and public education are troubled by TFA in principle, your organization could earn kudos by doing the right thing here.


  1. Sorry if I don't weep for TfAers and their dilemma. Don't all teachers lose a chunk of money when they go on strike? All workers, for that matter? And, while I hate to generalize, I'd suggest that few TfAers have families or mortgages to worry about. In fact, I'd wager that an awful lot of them are still under Mommy and Daddy's protective umbrella.

    Of course there may be a penalty for striking - as there always is. The point is you suck that up and do what's right for the betterment of the future, which is what TfAers claim to be in it for.

  2. How could they even consider not supporting the teachers who are trying to improve the very schools they teach in?