AB 221 is a Poor Choice for Our Students, Schools and Our Community

As a board member of the Lynwood Unified School District, we have been partnering with Teach for America (TFA) for years. We had a vibrant partnership the organization in the ‘90s and early 2000s and revived our partnership in 2013 when I was elected to the School Board based on the critical needs of the district.

AB 221, introduced on January 16, 2019, by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, would prohibit Teach for America corps members- explicitly and by name- from teaching in schools where at least 40 percent of students come from low-income families beginning in the 2020-2021 school year.

More than 90 percent of Lynwood Unified students are identified as Unduplicated Free/Reduced-Price meals, English Learners and Foster Youth. AB221 prevents districts, like Lynwood Unified, from collaborating with Teach For America to support our most needy populations. The bill further limits local control of hiring while ignoring effective teaching.

In my district, we currently have 16 TFA corps members serving our students. While we partner with multiple institutions in an attempt to stay fully staffed with credentialed teachers, without Teach for America, one of our most vulnerable student populations would suffer: our Special Education students. Currently, some of our best performing Special Education classes are led by TFA corps members. AB 221 doesn’t consider teachers like Ms. Lanphere, a Special Education teacher at one of our elementary schools who has not only transformed her classroom into a safe haven for students, but who also makes an impact in their lives by teaching and demonstrating compassion and love. There is also Ms. Parker, another TFA Special Education teacher who goes the extra mile every opportunity she has, even becoming Google Certified as a way to better integrate technology into her classroom. These two teachers alone would inspire anyone to believe in the magic of teaching and the importance of having the right people in our classrooms. Another Teach for America corps member leads our IB program. A handful of others serve in other capacities such as coordinators, assistant principals, and lead teachers. One TFA corps member became our high school principal, Director of Secondary and served as our Interim Assistant Superintendent. AB 221 doesn’t consider the impact all these educators have made in the lives of thousands of students in Lynwood alone. Without our partnership with TFA, none of the above would be in Lynwood. TFA helps recruit and bring high quality teachers to communities like Lynwood.

The most pressing issue facing many schools is how to effectively recruit and retain enough passionate and committed teachers for the students who truly need them. Limiting local control of hiring would make it harder for teachers of color to enter the classroom; eliminating a teacher preparation pipeline is not the solution to this problem. The legislature should be creating more opportunities for a diverse effective teacher corps – not turning them away.

AB 221 ignores student outcomes. A study conducted in Los Angeles Unified School District by the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University found teachers recruited through Career Ladder and Teach For America are more effective than the typical novice teacher. Teachers who enter the profession on intern credentials are recognized annually as Rookies of the Year and school and system-based Teachers of the Year, and have been named State Teacher of the Year.

School administrators, elected school boards, and communities should have local control over hiring decisions so they can tap the most talented, effective, and representative teacher candidates available. Local leaders in communities from the Bay Area to Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Diego want the ability to hire credentialed teachers who are motivated to take on the biggest challenges in our hardest-to-staff schools.

I encourage the legislature to focus on the real issue at hand: recruiting and retaining enough effective teachers.

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Alma Renteria

Alma Renteria

Alma-Delia Renteria is a proud product of Lynwood schools. After graduating UC Riverside, with a B.A. in English and a year earlier than anticipated, she decided to commit her “gap year” to City Year. After City Year Los Angeles, Alma went on to purse a teaching career with Teach For America Los Angeles. Upon joining TFA, Alma began her education career as a middle school teacher. It was while teaching that she realized the need to do her part to help serve the community she grew up in and decided to run for office, getting elected to the Lynwood School Board at only 23 years old. Alma completed her Master’s degree in Urban Education at Loyola Marymount University and is currently pursuing a 2nd Masters in Education Leadership and her Admin Credential. She was recently appointed by the Speaker to the Instructional Quality Commission and also serves as a Digital Learning Instructional Coach at a dual immersion school in Pico Rivera.

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