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August 04, 2009
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Today marks history for the Buckeye State, its low-income children, and its failing schools, as well as for the dozens if not hundreds of education reform advocates who've been pushing for the last decade for Teach For America - Ohio.
Today legislation passed in both the Ohio House (HB 21) and Senate (SB 81) that paves the way for a Teach For America site (specifically, allowing TFA to place teachers across grades and not just in shortage areas) and also makes it easier for alums of the program to get certified here to teach.
The Ohio House passed HB 21 by a 64-32 vote margin, with five Democrats crossing the aisle to support it. Kudos to Reps. Celeste, Patmon, Sykes, Budish, and Salozzi for joining Democrats across the country ? including President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan ? in supporting the program.
In the Senate, the bill was amended slightly so as to require Teach For America to partner with a local university (which is required in many other TFA states but which adds undo requirements to the program). It passed by a margin of 25-8. Kudos to Sen. Turner, Wilson, and Kearney to cross the aisle in support of the bill.
I, along with four other alumnas of the program now living in Ohio, sat in the House gallery on pins and needles this morning as we listened to lawmakers debate the merits of a program that would place talented and effective teachers in some of Ohio's poorest schools, and allow alums (like Abbey Kinson and Jenna Davis) teaching in Ohio to not have to fight tooth and nail to get certified here.
There were a number of claims about the program raised (and many of them in heated fashion) ? that Teach For America teachers think they can ?save inner city children? (the classic ?white missionary? euphemism that makes my skin crawl); that they are dramatically underprepared and do damage to poor children; that it's an ?experiment? to which we should not expose our children (never mind that it's in 31 states ? not exactly experimental status); that they'll steal jobs from our own teacher graduates (and again ? education is NOT about giving people jobs). Oh, and the ridiculous slippery slope argument that if we de-professionalize teaching, then we'll be hiring doctors and engineers and lawyers with ?5 weeks of training? (by the way, that's not accurate at all) and the implication that this will lead to collapsed bridges and medical malpractice.
But rather than let my blood pressure rise again to unpleasant levels, today is a day to celebrate!
Teach For America is on its way to the Buckeye State! Teach For America new site development staff deserve enormous thanks, as do all of the extraordinary alums living in Ohio who've rallied around the cause (many of them who have continued teaching, even on long-term sub licenses, because of a deep commitment to students and to closing achievement gaps). Education reformers like my colleagues here at Fordham, who've been fighting for far longer than I've even lived in this state, as well as education reformers at various other education groups in Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and other areas, have laid the groundwork to make this possible. And lawmakers who've taken up this cause and who've fought diligently over the last several months deserve a huge thanks.
This thanks is offered up on behalf of the kids living in Ohio's urban and rural areas who will be impacted by TFA's teachers in the years to come, students whose life trajectories may put them on the path to high school dropout, unemployment, prison, or worse. By bringing in more effective teachers to classrooms that need them the most, Ohio is one step closer to ensuring that such trajectories are changed, and that every child in this state receives the excellent education he or she deserves. ??
- Jamie Davies O'Leary