AB 221 Would Make It More Difficult for Our Schools To Have Effective, Diverse Teachers

It is in times like these that we must enlist help from all who are committed to the goal of ONE DAY providing all students access to a quality education regardless of their zip code, race, or gender. As an alumna of Teach For America Los Angeles, and having served in a school setting for over seven years now, it is disappointing to realize that so many people still don’t understand the impact Assembly Bill (AB) 221 would have on our very own communities. To put it in simplest terms, AB 221, would effectively ban ANY California public school from working with community partners like Teach for America, along with many other talent partners, to bring diverse, qualified teachers into the profession.

AB 221 will only exacerbate California’s chronic teacher shortage in our highest-need schools by forcing public school leaders and districts to forgo high-quality teachers provided by partners and instead hire long-term substitute teachers.

While critics claim that Teach For America teachers take jobs that other “more prepared” teachers deserve, it is important to acknowledge that more often than not, Teach for America teachers are placed in classrooms that would have a long-term sub otherwise. I walked into a 7th grade classroom in 2012 that struggled to understand why I was so excited to be there, as the students had to deal with substitute after substitute after their 6th grade teacher left them mid-year the year prior. The teacher that abandoned them was not a Teach For America Corps Member, but rather just a teacher who could not deal with all the extra elements of teaching in the MacArthur Park area, where instruction was only half of our day as students came in with so much more that we often had to also serve as counselors. I can’t judge him for leaving, but I can say that those students deserved better. They deserved someone who loved them and was committed to them. I was proud to serve them as a Teach For America Corps member and would never take back that first, extremely challenging year. And the truth is, without Teach For America, the school would have struggled to recruit someone who would be willing to work in a difficult environment by choice, so was having someone like me be there instead of a rotating door of substitutes the better option? Absolutely.

As a TFA alum, a committed educator, and a school system leader whose district will be directly impacted by the consequences of AB 221, I’m asking for your help to stop this ill-conceived bill by using the ‘Contact Your Legislator’ tool provided by Teach For America. It only takes a few moments to find your legislator and send an email.

On May 16, the Appropriations Committee decided to move AB 221 forward. There’s limited time to act before more critical votes take place, but with your help, we can let legislators know that this bill shouldn’t go any further. Let’s work together so that one day, all students in CA have access to a quality education and a future of opportunities.

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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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