The Teat: ~Half Billion for Teach (Temp) For America

Today I will profile Teach (Temp) For America (TFA) on The Teat. See Cloaking Inequity’s full thread on TFA here.

The Teat is a series on Cloaking Inequity (the protuberance through which milk is drawn from an udder or breast) that seeks to trace financial support which various entities receive that are involved in current educational policy debates.

Because the Cow Haiku was popular yesterday’s post The Teat: Sandy (Alexander) Kress. Here is another.

A cow looks stable,
but she can be tipped over
with just a light shove.


In 2010, in our policy brief entitled Teach For America: A Review of the Evidence we reported:

Between 2000 and 2008, TFA’s operating expenditures increased from $10 million to $114.5 million. Of those expenditures, TFA annual reports show that about a third of operating costs are currently borne by the public (See Table 3). Notably, TFA launched a campaign for a direct allocation of $50 million in federal support for 2011. If such an allocation were made, and if TFA’s operating expenditures in 2011 were similar to 2008, a large majority of TFA’s funding would be from the federal government and other taxpayer sources.

So what is the current state of TFA’s national funding? From whose teat do they partake?

Screen Shot 2013-01-17 at 11.03.36 AM

The screen capture from their 2011 annual report shows that about a third of their budget comes from public sources. Even with the $50 million from the federal government from the I3 grant program and millions from districts and state legislatures, proportionally, TFA has increased their funding from individuals, corporations, and foundations since our policy report in 2010. So beyond the millions in finders fees that districts and federal and state funds already paid to TFA, who else funds TFA? First, thanks to Sylvia from Austin who pulled the TFA development data from the Foundation Center in New York and forwarded it. Since 2003, TFA has raked in $469,265,615 from foundation, corporations and individuals— almost half a billion dollars. See the TFA national spreadsheet here. How about Texas? Which foundations and private individuals have given TFA in Texas $5,612,602 since 2009? The Texas spreadsheet is here. Sidenote: For the assemblyperson that emailed me from Nevada: TFA’s take from Corporations and Foundations in Nevada had been about ~500k since 2006. Bank of America has been the largest contributor at about ~$320k. While TFA was claiming poverty during the last Texas Legislature, it was reported by the Houston Chronicle that TFA has another $100 million on the way from private donors which makes the $5 million shown above, well, peanuts. Edit: Thanks to Karen from Houston for this info. TFA hustles $4 million per year from the Texas Legislature:

Excerpt from Fiscal Size Up 2011

p 255 of 668

The Eighty-second Legislature maintained level funding at $8.0 million for Teach for America (TFA), directing that those funds support the provision of at least 1,000 TEA teachers in Texas schools with a prioritization on teachers of mathematics if possible.

Appropriations Act 2011-2012  Rider for TFA

p 277 of 1077

55. Teach for America.

From funds appropriated above in Strategy B.3.1, Improving Educator Quality and Leadership, the Commissioner shall expend $4,000,000 in General Revenue in each fiscal year of the biennium to support the Teach for America program in Texas. It is the intent of the Legislature that at least 1,000 Teach for America teachers be employed in Texas schools that serve a proportion of economically disadvantaged students that is above the state average. Funding shall be allocated in such a manner as to prioritize employment of Teach for America teachers in the field of mathematics to the extent practicable.

So if wealthy donors are footing the bill for Temp for America (~80% leave the classroom after 3 years), they don’t need hundreds of thousands of dollars in finders fees from our cash strapped districts and FIVE lobbyist at the Texas state capitol this session fiending for millions of scarce taxpayer dollars.


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  • The biggest problem facing teacher quality is teacher attrition. If we are serious about needing better teachers (which I’m not sure we do – no one has ever shown me evidence that teachers aren’t good – other than anecdotal evidence, which we all know how that goes), than hiring temporary teachers that leave after 3 – 5 years makes no sense. And on top of that, requiring states to actually pay for this is self-defeating.

    The question we ought to be asking ourselves is how do we keep good teachers, or more precisely, we should be finding out how to keep teachers altogether. Other than nursing, teaching has the highest attrition rates of any profession I have seen, and when you consider urban schools, the attrition is worse than nursing. How can we make teachers better when they leave their schools so continuously?

    The bottom line is that our federal and state governments don’t really care about teacher quality, they care about money. They don’t even really care about student outcomes either. Both of these topics allow them to scapegoat and misuse data to save them money.


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  • Ok, this post really hits home. I have been a principal at all levels now. Both in urban and rural settings and serving students who are low-socio economic. The goal “to bring teachers to low-socio economic” areas, does not make jump up and down for joy. In reality, in all the years, I have been a principal, I find that teachers that serve students in low-socio economic areas, have to be the most qualified in order to make impact on students academic success. Take for example, the school that I just left replaced some teachers with TFAs. I paid a recent visit to the school, now having been gone for more than a year. The students who are now seniors and juniors, quickly came to tell me how the school “sucked”. They meant the teachers did not know what they were doing and that they are so bored. Please come back and save us…That tore me up. Even the veteran teachers were asking for a job because they said they no longer felt empowered.This is just an example of how teacher quality is important when students have experienced well trained teachers. The problem with TFAs is their lack of connection with students (due to temporary assigment), and non-commital role to the art of teaching. The students know this…Especially high school students, they know if you care or not. So if the goal is to help students in low-socio economic areas, then we must place those who can commmit and motivate students. Would any of the schools in high socio-economic areas employ these teachers to serve their children? Would the rich experiment with their kids education? This is a question of equity…will TFA create a bigger disparity among the haves and the have nots?


  • Dr. VH – although I understand your displeasure and frustration with TFA, especially given your affiliation with UT Austin’s UTeach, which TFA essentially undermines. But, shouldn’t your frustration be directed to the thousands of campuses and hundreds of districts throughout the state that hire TFA teachers or expand their TFA assignments from the previous school year? The fact that TFA assignments continue to increase, year by year, in the state of Texas suggests that they are serving a purpose, even if it is to maintain the status quo without the price tag associated with certified / alt cert teachers. TFA recruits in Texas schools seems like a reaction (logical from a financial standpoint) of the consistently decreasing funds confronted by districts and schools.


    • Robert, I am actually not affiliated in any way with UTeach. I doubt TFA undermines UTeach as they are some of the most sought after COE graduates in the nation. In most districts I have visited over the years in Texas, they would love to have UTeach teachers. So I don’t believe TFA undermines UTeach. But that is just anecdotal on my part and not based on research or data.

      Mold grows too.

      I do believe your argument about decreasing funding is spot on! Sadly our country has taken the opposite approach to teacher quality compared to the nations with the leading educational systems. Singapore, Finland and Korea for example have sought to improve their teaching force by improving capacity. In Finland all teachers are unionized, there are rigorous standards to enter the classroom, and masters degrees are free. In Korea, all teachers are federal employees. In Singapore, teachers are paid on par with doctors. Most of this sounds like sacrilege to the average American because these options are expensive and the anti-thesis of what people like Michelle Rhee are arguing (no wonder she didn’t get results in DC). However, my mother always says that you get what you pay for.


      • Dr HV,

        My apologies on the UTeach misunderstanding. And, my appreciation for your response. I am in complete agreement with you about our approach to teacher quality. As long as we continue to look at teacher effectiveness / quality as a measure of student achievement and not in terms of the many other benefits of teachers that are not measured by achievement or do not appear immediately, we will continue to force states, districts, and schools to make these decisions based on money rather than what is best for their students. Obviously this is a much broader subject than this, but I appreciate your response.


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