Fordham's Jamie Davies O'Leary testifies in Ohio Senate in support of TFA

This morning the Ohio Senate Education Committee met to discuss SB 81- a bill that would allow Teach For America alumni to gain a resident teacher license and be equipped to teach in the State of Ohio. It also paves the way for the creation of an actual TFA-Ohio site. ?In support of the bill three TFA alums (including Fordham's own Jamie Davies O'Leary) testified, throwing their support behind this bill.? After listening to their testimony, it became clearer than ever to me that Ohio needs to pass this legislation and allow TFA participants and alums into low-income classrooms.

Currently in Ohio, people who leave the state to participate in TFA but would like to come back and teach in Ohio have a very difficult time doing so. For these individuals to teach, they have to jump through several hurdles and often have to undertake additional course work. These difficulties deter a lot of talented and committed people from coming back to teach. This means that Ohio is losing out on teachers that sometimes have six plus years of college and who have achieved significant growth in the classroom. This can't happen if Ohio is serious about providing a quality education to all students.

As Jamie pointed out in her testimony, there are several alarming trends in Ohio that justify why SB 81 is good for Ohio. First, this bill would allow highly committed and effective teachers to teach in some of the most difficult and underperforming schools in the state. Many traditional teachers will tell you themselves that they don't want to work in some of Ohio's toughest classrooms, but TFA teachers are not only willing to teach in these kinds of environments, they would prefer it. Senator and Chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee Peggy Lehner reiterated this fact today when she told of a meeting that she had with twenty suburban teachers yesterday in the Dayton area. She asked them, ?If we were to give you a $15,000 bonus to teach in Dayton Public Schools would you do it??? All twenty of them said no. They said if TFA wants to teach there, let them.

Secondly, allowing TFA alumni to come back to Ohio and teach would provide a renewed sense of determination and excitement around education reform that this state so desperately needs. As Jamie noted, a common misconception and criticism of TFA is that people join because of its prestige factor and to boost their resumes. While this might be the case for a few individuals, I don't believe it is the norm. After listening to three former TFA alumni today, one of which is still teaching and the other a school director, one thing is clear: they joined TFA and are fighting for it here in Ohio because they believe in the power that it can have in making a difference in the lives of children. TFA corps members are placed in the some of the most challenging and low-income districts, yet still manage to demonstrate growth in the classroom. While these individuals might not have gone through a traditional ed school, they are clearly capable of teaching in the classroom.

Senate Bill 81 would allow for highly dedicated and committed teachers to come in and make a real difference in the lives of children who need it the most. This bill makes sense for Ohio, our children, and our future. In today's State of the State, Governor Kasich said TFA is coming to Ohio- hopefully he holds true to his word.

Read Jamie's testimony in its entirety here.

-Bianca Speranza

More By Author