July 8, 2013; Truth-Out
Minnesota’s Democratic Governor Mark Dayton nixed a $1.5 million state earmark for Teach for America in the Gopher State’s budget, but all is not lost for TFA in other states. In nearby Wisconsin, Republican Governor Scott Walker has proposed $1 million for TFA in his biennial budget.
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TFA has its critics and its supporters. Among the critics is Diane Ravitch, an education expert, who writes, “Teach for America is a wealthy organization that sends ill-trained recruits to teach in under-resourced districts…These poorly trained young people, with no experience as teachers and no commitment to stay beyond two years, are expected to work wonders. They don’t.”
There are also plenty who think that public schools—and traditional, unionized public school teachers—don’t do a good enough job, and that well-motivated young college graduates from the nation’s top schools armed with five weeks’ worth of training under TFA’s tutelage would do just as well, if not better. That may be the reason why the politically conservative Walton Family Foundation announced in 2011 a $49.5 million grant for TFA.
While there do seem to be the beginnings of a pushback against TFA, centered in Governor Dayton’s veto of the TFA earmark along with Minnesota’s rejection of TFA’s request for a blanket waiver of teacher certifications for its teachers, TFA has reservoirs of support to tap in other state and local government quarters:
- There are now more than 300 TFA teachers in Oklahoma, with Tulsa designated as the site of the TFA Summer Institute, the five-week training that recruits get before being placed in classrooms.
- In Louisiana, TFA is scheduled to receive $1.2 million in state funds.
- The South Carolina Board of Education just approved the expansion of TFA into four school districts on top of the nine in which TFA teachers are already working.
- As of last month, TFA was slated to receive a no-bid $6 million grant from the state of North Carolina (much like the no-bid grant that Minnesota’s Dayton vetoed), where a former TFA teacher serves as the education advisor to conservative Republican Governor Pat McCrory.
While defenders of TFA decry the power of the teachers’ unions to purportedly deny TFA Minnesota budget moneys, elsewhere in the U.S., TFA is doing quite well with a combination of government funds and philanthropic capital. Have any other states joined Minnesota in actually rejecting TFA for grant funding and certification waivers, especially after having typically given TFA that kind of support in years past, as Minnesota did?—Rick Cohen