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Texas Taxpayers Pay Teach For America $22M from 2018 – 2021, None of Which Is for TFA Teacher Salaries

May 12, 2019

On May 11, 2019, Teach for America (TFA) alum and New York math teacher, Gary Rubinstein, posted a piece about the money Texas taxpayers spend to keep TFA in their state. Rubinstein entitled his post, “Texas Pays TFA $5.5 Million a Year for 400 Recruits.”

Included in Rubinstein’s post is this Texas Education Agency (TEA) FY2020 and 2021 Proposed Budget, which denotes TEA’s $11M, biennial request for funding TFA statewide. The $11M is to come from “funds appropriated for Educator Quality and Leadership.”

It seems that paying multiple millions to ensure a revolving door of seat-of-pants-trained, temp teachers sorely misses “educator quality and leadership,” but let’s continue.

TEA wanted another $1.1M for TFA for FY2020 and 2021 (which would have increased TFA biennial funding to $12.1M for FY2020 and 2021), but TEA chose to adhere to $11M, the same amount provided for FY2018 and 2019. (According to the FY2020 and 2021 budget approved by the Texas legislature, it seems that the $11M was approved.)

Thus, from 2018 to 2021, Texas taxpayers will have paid TFA $22M for temp teachers. That’s the beauty of the multi-million-dollar pricetag for TFA: A market that is perpetuated by the transience of its recruits.

According to the TEA proposed budget document, TFA’s next $11M comes with expectations and conditions, which appear to have been in place since at least 2017, as follows:

Teach for America. From funds appropriated above in Strategy B.3.1, Improving Educator Quality and Leadership, the Commissioner shall expend $5,500,000 in General Revenue in fiscal year 202018 and $5,500,000 in General Revenue in fiscal year 202119 to support the Teach for America program in Texas.

It is the intent of the Legislature that at least 1,800 Teach for America public school employees be employed in Texas schools that serve a proportion of economically disadvantaged students above the state average by the end of fiscal year 202119.

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.

As a condition of receipt of these funds, the Commissioner shall require Teach for America to work jointly with the Texas Education Agency and representatives of districts which employ Teach for America graduates on implementing a plan to improve retention rates of Teach for America teachers. The Commissioner shall require Teach for America to provide any expenditure and performance data deemed necessary to assess the success of Teach for America in meeting the requirements identified in this rider.

In addition, the Commissioner shall require the provision of information on:

a. the number of Teach for America first and second year corps members (identified by cohort) in the state specified by school year and public school district or charter campus to which they are assigned;

b. the number of Teach for America graduates in the state who are employed by a public school district or charter, by school year, length of service, job title, district or charter campus of current employment, and district or charter campus to which the graduate was initially assigned;

c. the number of Teach for America graduates in the state who are no longer employed by a public school district or charter, length of service, and reason for leaving public school employment; and

d. demographic information for Teach for America corps members and graduates as determined by the Commissioner.

The Commissioner shall submit a report to the Legislative Budget Board and the Office of the Governor on implementation of the teacher retention plan, success of the Teach for America program, and requested data by November 1, 202118.

Note that the $11M is not for TFA teacher salaries. It is meant to be paid straight to TFA, as noted in the “item comment” accompanying the 2020 and 2021 “reduction” (which only means “we’re asking for the same amount as we received in FY 2018 and 2019”):

TEA’s Strategic Plan for 2017 to 2021 has a goal of recruiting, supporting and retaining Texas teachers. These funds are used to support TEA’s Strategic Plan by providing funding to Teach for America (TFA). TFA recruits recent college graduates and professionals who commit two years to teach in Texas urban and rural areas in the state’s hardest-to-staff classrooms with significant populations of low-income students. Currently, the TFA program is able to serve approximately 714 Corps Members in four regions throughout Texas including Houston, the Rio Grande Valley, Dallas-Fort Worth, and San Antonio. With a 10% reduction of funds, TEA approximates TFA will have to reduce the teacher cohort from 714 to 643 teachers, a loss of 71 Corps Members. These teachers would serve thousands of low-income students in hard-to-staff classrooms.

Since the Houston Independent School District (HISD) has decided not to renew its contract with TFA for the 2020-2021 school year, TFA will be better positioned to manage with only $11M in fees from Texas taxpayers above and beyond the TFA teacher salaries.

The TEA budget document states that the Texas legislature desires to have at least 1,800 TFAers in Texas classrooms. So, for those desired 1,800 TFA recruits, Texans are paying TFA $6,111 per recruit for a two-year stint.

If the TFAers stay for the entire two years.

And here is where my curiousity was piqued: In the TEA budget conditions noted previously and repeated below, what is meant by “retention”? Does “retaining” a TFAer mean remaining in the classroom longer than the usual two-year stint, or does it only mean managing to get that very costly TFAer to stay for an entire two-year stint?

As a condition of receipt of these funds, the Commissioner shall require Teach for America to work jointly with the Texas Education Agency and representatives of districts which employ Teach for America graduates on implementing a plan to improve retention rates of Teach for America teachers.

In order to find out what “retention” means in this case, I located one of TEA’s annual reports on TFA. This one from 2016-17 utilizes data provided by TEA grantee, TFA. (Note that the report references appendices that are supposed to be part of the report but are missing.)

The 23-page report mentions “retention” once, and it refers to the percentage of TFAers who remain in the classroom for two years:

  • Houston: 89%
  • Rio Grande Valley: 88%
  • Dallas-Fort Worth: 90%
  • San Antonio: 90%

If they arrive in the first place.

The word “resignation(s)” appears six times, as in “due to resignations,” TFA couldn’t meet teacher needs in specific subject areas because recruits bailed before arrival, and  “lost” appearing twice, as in TFA losing recruits prior to beginning in the classroom.

The report includes no information about TFAer retention beyond Year Two, which puts quite the short-term spin on a long-term word.

Furthermore, regarding TFAer exit from the classroom, TFA offers the following astounding excuse for lack of information on its recruits being “no longer employed by a public school district or charter”:

Upon further investigation of our survey data and alumni database, we found that
we have not consistently inquired as to the reason for leaving public school
employment over our 25 year history and are therefore unable to report on this

“We have not consistently inquired.” That acrobatic wording provides a convenient dodge for the fact that TFA seeks permanence in shaping policy, expanding its market and garnering increasing profits, not in providing career classroom teachers.

The 2016-17 TEA-TFA report has more info that I leave to my readers to pore over, should they choose. I will note that it does include test results for TFA teachers, none of which I expect to see featured in any glossy, TFA promotion purchased in part by the current, $11M dose in Texas-taxpayer, biennial bucks.



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Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

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From → TFA

  1. Reblogged this on David R. Taylor-Thoughts on Education and commented:
    On top of the $100 million a year they spend on testing. Super!

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  1. School Hasn’t Changed in 100 Years. So Saith TFA. | deutsch29: Mercedes Schneider's Blog

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