Without Recruits, Even Lobbying Cannot Save Teach for America
In July 2016, the teacher temp agency, Teach for America (TFA) filed its latest tax form, technically for 2014, but actually spanning June 01, 2014 to May 31, 2015.
Here is TFA’s stated mission:
OUR MISSION IS TO ENLIST, DEVELOP, MOBILIZE AS MANY AS POSSIBLE OF OUR NATION’S MOST PROMISING FUTURE LEADERS TO GROW AND STRENGTHEN THE MOVEMENT FOR EDUCATIONAL EQUITY AND EXCELLENCE.
TFA’s total end-of-year assets for 2014-15 were $445 million, down from $494 million at the beginning of the tax year. In both 2014-15 and 2013-14, TFA’s expenses exceeded its revenue (by $26 million in 2013-14 and $75 million in 2014-15).
According to TFA’s 2014 tax form, it spent $1 million on “direct contact with legislators, their staffs, government officials, or a legislative body.” Of course, that million was spent in TFA’s lobbying for itself.
Here is the detailed description by TFA about exactly how that $1 million was spent:
ON A STATE LEVEL, LOCAL ADVISORY BOARD MEMBERS, PAID STAFF OR MANAGEMENT HAD DIRECT CONTACT WITH STATE LEGISLATORS,THEIR STAFF AND MEMBERS OF STATE EXECUTIVE BRANCH AGENCIES IN SUPPORT OF STATE APPROPRIATIONS FOR TEACH FOR AMERICA’S IN-STATE OPERATIONS THROUGH REGULAR STATE BUDGET PROCESSES.
IN ADDITION, REGIONAL STAFF ALSO WORKED FOR THE PASSAGE OF VARIOUS PIECES OF LEGISLATION WHICH WOULD IMPACT TEACH FOR AMERICA’S ABILITY TO OPERATE IN A GIVEN COMMUNITY INCLUDING THE PASSAGE OF ALTERNATIVE CERTIFICATION LEGISLATION AND LEGISLATION PERMITTING TEACH FOR AMERICA TO BE RECOGNIZED BY THE STATE AS AN ALTERNATIVE PATHWAY TO TEACH LICENSURE.
TEACH FOR AMERICA HAS USED CONSULTANTS AT THE STATE LEVEL TO PROVIDE LOBBYING SERVICES, SUCH AS BILL AND REGULATION TRACKING ON MATTERS, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO, TEACHER CERTIFICATION AND STATE FUNDING AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL.
TEACH FOR AMERICA STAFF INTERFACED WITH MEMBERS OF CONGRESS, THEIR PERSONAL AND COMMITTEE STAFF, AND KEY MEMBERS OF THE PRESIDENT’S ADMINISTRATION AND FEDERAL AGENCIES, TO ADVOCATE FOR LEGISLATION AND REGULATIONS THAT WOULD SUPPORT TEACH FOR AMERICA AND THE CONSTITUENCIES WE SERVE.
As a 501c3, TFA can spend a max of $1 million on lobbying because its exempt-purpose expenditures exceed $17 million. However, TFA also has an associated lobbying nonprofit (a 501c4), Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE), to which it donated $9.5 million in 2014-15, for the general purpose of providing “charitable and educational programs to strengthen individual and collective leadership of TFA alumni.”
TFA wants its alumni to assume positions of political and education administrative leadership so that it can take over American public education and kill traditional teacher training programs.
TFA seeks above all to advance itself. And it has some money in reserve; according to its 2014-15 tax form, TFA is sitting on a $162 million endowment that it describes as follows:
TEACH FOR AMERICA’S ENDOWMENT IS INTENDED TO PROVIDE CONTINUOUS SOURCE OF FUNDING TO SUPPORT THE INSTITUTION’S PRIMARY EDUCATIONAL AND SOCIAL MISSION THE ENDOWMENT’S PRINCIPAL IS INTENDED TO BE LEFT UNTOUCHED, WHILE ITS EARNINGS ARE USED TO FUND VARIOUS ORGANIZATION PROGRAMS (AND GRANTS)
Yes, TFA is sitting on endowment money; however, it still depends upon revenue generated from schools and districts that pay fees in return for a ready supply recruits.
Thus, the TFA weakness.
TFA must have that available stream of fresh recruits– but it isn’t getting them. According to the April 2016 Washington Post, TFA recruitment fell 35 percent in three years.
Drops in TFA recruitment will also nix state-level hopes of alternative licensure of TFAers, as has happened in Minnesota as I was writing this post. As the November 07, 2016, TwinCities.com/Pioneer Press notes:
A partnership between the University of Minnesota and Teach for America to provide an alternative pathway to a teaching license will not be renewed due to low enrollment and growing costs.
Deborah Dillon, an associate dean at the U’s college of education, said the university needed at least 40 students a year to enroll in the program for it to be financially sustainable. There were just 18 in the latest summer class. …
Kathryn Phillips, a spokeswoman for Teach for America, or TFA, said a looming 40 percent tuition hike to $23,000 a year led to the breakdown. …
Dillon acknowledged that tuition would have to increase to keep the program financially sustainable. …
In 2013, Gov. Mark Dayton nixed $1.5 million in state grants for the organization and the group sparred with the Board of Teaching over license variances for its member.
Fewer recruits; higher costs for the leverage TFA needs in order to advance itself.
Without those recruits, even lobbying cannot save TFA.