Budgetary constraints coupled with Gov. Bobby Jindal’s general reluctance to approve non-government organization (NGO) funding requests have resulted in a declining number of requests in each of the past four years—from almost 450 in 2010 to just 90 last year and 80 this year (not counting the obvious $12 trillion joke request from the prankster in Georgia).
But Teach for America (TFA) apparently is not discouraged by the realities of fiscal austerity.
Among those 80 requests for funding by NGOs this year was one from TFA for a $5 million appropriation.
So, why would TFA need a $5 million appropriation from the state?
According to the project summary submitted with its application, the money would apparently be used to provide 550 to 700 teachers and 1,000 alumni who would serve as teachers, leaders and “positive change agents (whatever that is) in the lowest income schools throughout the greater New Orleans and greater Baton Rouge areas, central Louisiana, Acadiana and the Louisiana Delta.”
But wait. LouisianaVoice has come across three state contracts with TFA totaling almost $1.6 million to recruit, train and place 570 TFA teachers in the Delta region of Louisiana and the Recovery School District.
First, such an appropriation would seem to raise the obvious question of potential violations of federal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws by awarding contracts for the hiring of specific applicants to the exclusion of other equally or better qualified applicants.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC),
for example, recently:
• Settled a disability discrimination lawsuit against Dillard’s, Inc., which had forced employees to disclose personal and confidential medical information in order to be approved for health;
• Sued a discount tire store, claiming that the store does not hire women in management positions and other positions because of their gender;
• Sued Texas Roadhouse restaurants for age discrimination because the restaurant did not hire applicants age 40 and older;
• Sued Bass Pro for racial discrimination because the store does not hire African-Americans or Hispanic applicants and for retaliation against employees who complained about discrimination.
Louisiana’s colleges and universities each year turn out about 600 graduates in elementary education alone. These are students who pay increasingly higher tuition to complete a minimum of four years of education and student teaching (longer, if advanced degrees are pursued) in order to become certified teachers to educate our children.
But the Louisiana Department of Education (DOE) apparently is willing to dole out $1.6 million to TFA in order to give preferential treatment to 570 individuals whose only qualification is a five-week crash course with no certification.
So who are these 570 TFA teachers (or if you go by the NGO funding application, 500 teachers and 1,000 alumni) “who serve as teachers, leaders and positive change agents” and where are they employed?
A public records request to DOE by LouisianaVoice produced a list of 529 TFA teachers scattered across Louisiana over a three-year period—and not all of those in the “lowest income schools.” Nor was there any way of know how many names on the list provided by DOE are still employed, given the relative short tenure that has become indicative of TFA.
The largest number of TFA teachers (208) was found in various charter schools, followed by East Baton Rouge Parish (83). Some, however, were found in more affluent areas such as Jefferson Parish (19) Zachary (1), West Feliciana Parish (2).
Other school systems and the number of TFA teachers employed included:
• Acadia (1);
• Ascension (22);
• Avoyelles (16);
• City of Baker (9);
• East Feliciana (29);
• Pointe Coupee (20);
• St. Helena (14);
• St. Landry (3);
• Vermilion (1);
• Madison (10);
• Plaquemines (7);
• St. Bernard (32);
• St. James (5);
• St. John the Baptist (13).
TFA’s NGO application summary said that its historical size of operation was 200 teachers and 100 alumni.
But just as described by Naomi Klein in her book The Shock Doctrine,
natural disasters or emergencies have opened the doors for takeovers of local governmental entities by for-profit investors.
“…After Hurricane Katrina and with the incredible opportunities for educational change in Louisiana, Teach for America was asked by the state and private philanthropists to grow larger to provide the necessary human pipeline for schools and districts,” TFA’s application summary says.
Incredible opportunities? Human pipeline? Interesting how education has come to be seen in such terms.
“Using millions in national philanthropic dollars, Teach for America grew from 200 teachers and 100 alumni to our current scale.
“This $5 million matches the giving levels of our neighboring state of Mississippi and is in line with the needed funds to continue operating in Louisiana,” it said.
“Teach for America is currently leveraging state funds more than 10 to 1 by raising more than $11 million in private funds for our operations in Louisiana. An increase in state funding allows us to continue this work and allows us to attract even more private donations in the years to come.”
And just how would this $5 million be used?
The proposed budget provided on the application gives the following breakdown of expenditures:
• Contracts: $0;
• Acquisitions: $0;
• Major Repairs: $0;
• Operating Services: $0;
• Other Charges: $0;
• Salaries: $0;
• Professional Services: $5 million.
In describing its public purpose, TFA said it “recruits, selects, trains and supports teachers and leaders for the lowest income schools and school districts in the state of Louisiana and around the country.
“Teach for America is tapping a previously untapped base of talent and attracting America’s top recent graduates to teach in schools that need their support the most,” TFA said in its application. “We are ensuring that these teachers achieve excellent results immediately and are working to channel their energies towards long-term impact within education and within the state of Louisiana.
“Currently our 500 corps members work with nearly 45,000 students in the state of Louisiana. Our 1,000 alumni run schools, continue teaching in classrooms, are setting policy and otherwise influencing the debate for educational change in a positive direction.”
Running schools? Setting policy?
And all this time, we thought the Louisiana Department of Education was doing that