Editorial: Tardy money

Temple University hosted training for the newest class of Teach for America instructors last month.
Temple University hosted training for the newest class of Teach for America instructors last month.
Posted: July 22, 2010

Teach for America, the impressive program that recruits recent college graduates to help bridge the achievement gap between poor and affluent schools, deserves continued federal funding.

Congress had been dragging its feet about including the program in the fiscal 2011 budget until last week, when the House Appropriations Committee earmarked $20 million for it. That's an increase from the $18 million noncompetitive grant TFA received this year.

Instead of directly funding Teach for America, President Obama has proposed letting it compete with other applicants for funds from $235 million set aside for initiatives to recruit and prepare teachers to work at some of the nation's worst schools.

Obama's plan has merit, but Teach for America, which also depends on private grants and other donations, argues that it would be difficult for it to do its long-range planning if it had to compete that way for federal funding.

Even with direct funding, Teach for America, which had requested a $50 million federal allocation, will have to scale back its plans for this year. Corporations and foundations that support the program should step up to help fill the budget gap.

The program recruits recent college graduates to teach for at last two years in districts like Philadelphia, Camden, and Wilmington, where they fill a critical need. A study by the Urban Institute found that Teach for America high school teachers are more effective than traditional teachers.

Critics say the program parachutes novices mostly looking to pay off their college debts into failing schools. But many TFA participants stay past their commitment, and more students are learning as a result. It's a successful program worthy of support.

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