The Houston Independent School District Board did not renew its contract to hire Teach for America recruits. 

TFA profits handsomely on each person it places, collecting $3,000-$5,000 per person. Is it a rental fee or a finders’ fee? The organization has accumulated more than $300 million in assets and has created an international operation called Teach for All, which undermines teachers’ unions around the world. It also has a political operation called Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE), which trains its members to run for office and finances their campaigns. In some districts, like Atlanta, TFA controls the school board and uses its power to promote charter schools and privatization. Many charter schools rely on TFA to supply their teachers.

Houston ISD trustees voted Thursday to end the district’s contract with Teach For America, an organization that places high-performing college graduates from non-traditional teaching backgrounds in classrooms.

In recent years, about 35 Teach For America corps members joined the district annually, committing to a two-year program. Corps members are HISD employees and earn salaries paid by the district, though they cost HISD an additional $3,000 to $5,000 in fees related to recruitment and support.

Board members voted 4-4 on a motion to continue the contract, with a majority vote needed to support its renewal. Trustees approved the contract in 2018 by a 4-3 vote, but the outcome swung this year with Board President Diana Dávila flipping from “yes” to “no” on Thursday.

Opponents of renewing Teach For America’s contract noted corps members are less likely to remain in the district long-term than educators certified through more traditional methods. Some trustees also quibbled with the fees paid to Teach For America at a time when educators across the district are receiving modest salary increases.

“TFA is an organization that is problematic,” HISD Trustee Elizabeth Santos said. “It deprofessionalizes teaching, increases turnover and undermines union organization. We should not subsidize TFA with extra dollars. They should not have special privileges over alternative certification paths.”