May 25, 2013

That's a video promotion for Teach for America, the reformer billionaires' favorite educational non-profit organization. The general concept is to take college graduates, no matter what their major is, give them six weeks of training and then send them out to teach kids in inner-city schools. In theory, it's a really nice idea. In practice, it's not really working all that well. At least, not for the students.

TFA rakes in donations every year in larger and larger amounts from the usual suspects like Gates, Bloomberg, Walton and DeVos along with others who see them as a wonderful helper to the end goal of privatizing education.

Along the way, state governments have tried to sneak public grants into the budget for TFA, too. This time, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton used his line-item veto to just say no. His reasoning was impeccable. From his letter (PDF):

Teach for America (TFA) is a well-established, national program with revenues totaling $270 million for fiscal year 2011 (its most recent annual report). With total expenses of$219 million, TFA's net assets increased by over $50 million and now total over $350 million. With those financial resources available, it is not clear why a $1.5 million grant from the State of Minnesota is required to continue or expand the organization's work here.

My principal concern, however, is the way in which TFA was selected as the recipient of this grant. To my knowledge, no competitive grant program was established; no other applications were solicited; and no objective review was made by an independent panel of experts. Instead, the funds were inserted into the Senate's Higher Education bill, directed to this organization, and retained in the Conference Committee's report.

If the Legislature deems it is in our state's best interest to encourage programs like TFA, a formal grant program should be established within the Minnesota Department of Education, and all qualifying organizations should be allowed to apply for funding. The legislation should establish the goals for such a program and the results by which its effectiveness will be evaluated. This type of competitive grants process would be a fairer way to distribute public funds.

Applause to Governor Dayton for his sound objection to using state funds for private purposes. Well done, Governor!

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