Dear Lauren,

I am a fellow SPS parent and I just read this in the Seattle Times:

Controversy about TFA may lag behind the times. Seattle PTSA Council President Lauren McGuire tells The Times that TFA is not a major issue for most parents.

Did you really say this? If so, how do you know whether Teach for America is or isn’t a significant issue for most parents? How many parents and guardians of the 48,000 or so families of SPS have you spoken to about the subject? How many families do you think are even aware of what TFA, Inc. is and that it has a presence in Seattle?

If you do not in fact know for certain how the majority of SPS families feel about this issue, then I ask that you stop making such erroneous public statements.

If all 48,000 SPS families were fully informed about TFA, do you still believe it wouldn’t matter to parents whether or not their kids were being taught by someone with only five weeks of training and only a two-year commitment to the field, instead of by a fully credentialed teacher with a year of student teaching experience and a long-term commitment to the profession?

As you may have surmised, it does matter to me as a parent whether my children are given TFA recruits for teachers. This is not idle hypothesizing on my part. In fact, one of my children’s principals attempted to hire a TFA recruit this year, who may well have been assigned to teach my child. I would not be okay with that. And I strongly suspect that it would matter to a lot more parents if they knew what TFA is and that they are being placed in SPS classrooms. But most SPS parents don’t know about this.

I recently wrote about that fact in the article The Letter the Seattle School District did not send to local parents about Teach for America (but should have).

So again I return to my initial question: How do you know that TFA is not a major issue for most parents’?

As the head of the Seattle PTA, you have a responsibility to accurately represent the views of all the parents of SPS. I do not believe you are doing so here.

I also believe that the PTA has been strangely silent about the introduction of TFA to SPS in general, and I’d like to know why. Not only are TFA recruits much less trained and experienced than fully credentialed teachers, which is potentially detrimental to our children, their introduction into the SPS teaching force at the same salary as fully credentialed teachers (plus their annual extra cost of $4,000 each to our cash-strapped district) sends the message to parents and teachers alike that professional training for teachers does not matter. Do you not realize how this affects the morale of fully trained teachers in SPS?

If you add to this the PTA leadership’s sudden support of charter schools this year — which Washington voters have rejected three times in the last 15 years, and against which a growing number of schools and district Democratic organizations have issued resolutions — it is clear that the PTA leadership is either woefully out of touch with the parents it is supposed to represent, or simply pursuing its own agenda in our name.

There is a “T” in PTA, and a “P,” and at the moment I believe the PTA leadership represents neither.


Sue Peters

Seattle public schools parent

Co-founding editor, Seattle Education Blog

Founding member, Parents Across America