Teach For America is Preparing for Funding Cuts

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011 - 10:25am

MCALLEN - Teach for American is a program used throughout the Rio Grande Valley and the nation, to bring in top college graduates and professionals to teach in urban and rural schools. But, recent Texas House and Senate Bill proposals show cuts in the Teach for America funding provided by the state.

"Teach for America, in the 81st Legislature, received an appropriation for 8 million dollars to grow our corps size from just over 500 teachers in the Rio Grande Valley and Houston to over 1000 Teach for America teachers today, including a launch in the Dallas and San Antonio region," said Robert Carreon, Teach for America Rio Grande Valley Executive Director.

In both the Texas Senate and House draft budgets, Teach for America appropriation has been zeroed out. This is not detrimental to Teach for America, but it is making them cautious about their budget.

"Appropriation allows us to recruit, select, train and support teachers over a two year commitment," said Carreon.

This past year, Teach for America had 45 thousand applicants, with only 4,500 selected. Several hundred of those selected teach in the Rio Grande Valley area, but with only a two year minimum teaching stay. That's why some feel investing in local teachers would be a better choice.

Some critics eve said that Teach for America educators only bring a temporarily investment to this area. But in fact, many of the alumni come back to the areas that actually helped them get started, just like IDEA public school founders did in the Rio Grande Valley.

Tom Torkelson and Joann Gama were both Teach for America corps, and they created IDEA Public Schools to combat major educational deficiencies they saw in the area.

"What we see currently is that about 50 percent of our teachers are staying in the Valley longer than their minimum two year commitment," said Carreon.

Local Teach for America representatives are working hard to make that number keep going up.

But without funding, the overall number of teachers may go down.

"We just hope that our legislators are making decisions about those cuts, and where to wisely invest that money based on track records of success, and we hope our 20 year track record of success of providing great teachers to schools, low income schools, especially in Texas. And that is something that is going to be accounted for," said Carreon. 

The official bill will not be out for a few more months. Teach for America hopes that both the Texas House and Senate will look again and realize the benefits Teach for America has brought to the Rio Grande Valley and Texas.

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