By Ashleigh Costello

SAN DIEGO – After  years of teacher layoffs, San Diego schools have agreed to partner with Teach for America to fill vacant positions at high-needs schools starting next fall.

But the teachers union, which specializes in protecting the jobs of thousands of mediocre or poor teachers, hates the idea.

The San Diego school board approved the partnership last week.  The arrangement allows the school district to hire up to 25 teachers from the organization, reports the North County Times.

The agreement gives priority to San Diego natives and will be cost neutral for the district. Teach for America recruits will have to interview for open positions along with the rest of the district’s applicant pool.

“Our goal is helping to ensure that all students have access to an excellent education, and for us that means focusing on low-income kids,” said David Lopez, a corps member at Teach for America.

Teach for America is a non-profit organization that recruits top college graduates from many different academic disciplines to teach for at least two years in lower-income K-12 schools. Last year, TFA fielded 48,000 applications from college graduates for 5,800 positions.

TFA recruits must pass an intensive five-week summer training session before they are assigned to a classroom.

The San Diego Education Association (the teachers union) has been outspoken in its criticism of Teach for America, arguing the organization gives jobs to inexperienced educators who often leave the profession after the first two years.

“Talking about staffing our schools with people who don’t know what they are doing is ridiculous,” San Diego teacher Shane Parmely told the school board last Tuesday.  “If you want to recruit better teachers, pay better wages.”

Teach for America has said that 60 percent of its teachers continue for a third year, and 30 percent remain in the classroom after five years. Research has also shown TFA members to be as effective as recent graduates from traditional teacher training programs.

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