Sunday, February 27, 2011

Teach for America Is Not An Earmark

In its zeal to eliminate earmarks, some programs have been falsely labeled as such by Congress. Teach for America is one such program.

George Will writes of this misguided cut.

Speaking of leadership, someone in Congress should invest some on TFA's behalf. Government funding - federal, state, local - is just 30 percent of TFA's budget. Last year's federal allocation, $21 million, would be a rounding error in the General Motors bailout. And Kopp says that every federal dollar leverages six non-federal dollars. All that money might, however, be lost because even when Washington does something right, it does it wrong.

It has obtusely defined "earmark" to include "any named program," so TFA has been declared an earmark and sentenced to death. If Congress cannot understand how nonsensical this is, it should be sent back to school for remedial instruction from some of TFA's exemplary young people.

Teach for America is not an earmark. The Texas state legislature is considering cutting its contribution to the Teach for America program - currently about $8 million. Much of Teach for America’s funding comes from private donors. In late January, the nonprofit announced that it had created a permanent endowment fund of $ 100 million that would generate about 2 percent of its annual operating budget nationwide. The Houston-based Laura and John Arnold Foundation was among the four donors.

The state funding that Teach for America receives represents more than 20 percent of the group’s budget in Houston and more than a third in the Rio Grande Valley, according to Leon.

For example, KIPP in Houston has seen consistent rating as an excellent charter school initiative. KIPP hires participants in the Teach for America program. KIPP ranked #16 in the top 100 college prep high schools from across America. This high school is the first in the nation from the KIPP system. The success from the elementary and middle school system is consistent in each school opened. KIPP is a very successful charter school initiative and the standards for applicants are high.

Houston Independent School District (HISD) is one of the few school districts in the nation that welcome those in the Teach for America program. Many school districts do not actively hire Teach for America participants because it would diminish openings for local applicants. The Houston Independent School District, which was included in the study, employs nearly 490 Teach for America recruits — more than any other district in the nation.

School districts pay the salaries of the Teach for America teachers, while the organization pays most of the recruiting and training costs.

Teach for America brings in quality teachers and is certainly worth the contribution from the taxpayers of the State of Texas. It is not an earmark.

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