A few weeks ago an article appeared in ProPublica called ‘How Teach for America became an arm of the charter school movement’. I found this be a very well researched article which shed light on something that public school advocates like me already knew a lot about — that TFA and the charter school movement are highly intertwined.
For people who didn’t already know about this, this would be truly eye opening. But even for people like me who have always known about this, this article gave some new details that offered even more compelling proof including a major ‘smoking gun.’
The smoking gun is a contract that TFA signed with the Walton Foundation where TFA would receive $4,000 for each public school teacher they recruit and $6,000 for every charter school teacher they recruit.
I thought the article was great and it got a lot of attention but, for me, the most amazing thing was the reaction by TFA and by the TFA supporters.
Here is what TFA tweeted:
To which I responded:
Alexander Russo wrote on Phi Delta Kappan’s ‘The Grade’ a rebuttal called ‘How ProPublica’s investigation of Teach For America fell flat.’ You can read it and see if you find any compelling arguments in it, I know I found none.
This outrage by TFA and their cheerleaders is ironic to me since a few years ago TFA was very proud to be an arm of the charter school movement. If you went to the past two alumni summits, the 20th and the 25th, at least 75% of the people who were featured to speak in the sessions were from charter schools. Also, and I do think this is relevant, both Wendy Kopp and the current CEO of TFA, Elisa Villanueva-Beard, are married to charter school top executives. When Elisa Villanueva-Beard does an interview for a podcast or something like that, she always uses charter school teachers as her examples of the amazing things that TFA corps members are doing.
It is only because Democrats are finally souring on charter schools that TFA is acting like they do not have this deep connection with charter schools.
I have two other facts which were things not mentioned in the ProPublica article, as if more proof of the TFA/charter school connection is really needed.
One thing that is not widely known is that TFA lets charter schools have first option on the most talented new corps members. I know this because I have been in touch with one of the TFA superstar corps members from a few years back who was recruited into a KIPP school while he was at the institute and he told me about this arrangement. So TFA lets their charter school buddies get the best of the new recruits and leaves the dregs for the pubic schools. This means that the public schools are more likely to get a new TFA corps member who will quit or not quit and just be very ineffective.
Another thing that I find very telling is the way charter schools are represented in the TFA alumni magazine called ‘One Day.’ I looked through the winter 2019 edition and found that there were about 20 pages of advertisements in the approximately 100 page issue. Of the 20 pages of ads, about 18 are for charter schools and the other two are for graduate programs. Now I can see a TFA cheerleader saying that TFA can’t control who wants to post ads in their alumni magazine. But maybe they don’t need to run ads at all. Why should an organization that has $350 million need to get a few more thousand dollars for ads? And if they are going to have ads, maybe they can make an effort to have it so that it is not just charter school ads.
Here’s the list of advertisements with a few scans so you can get the point of view:
2 page spread:
Success Academy Charter Schools
1 page ad:
IDEA Charter Schools
Green Dot Charter Schools
Brooke Charter Schools
KIPP Charter Schools
Ascend Charter Schools (3 different one page ads)
ReGeneration Charter Schools
1/2 page ad:
Harlem Village Academies Charter Schools
The Equity Project Charter
Vanderbilt Peabody College
1/4 page ad:
Penn GSE grad school
Freedom Prep Charter
Mission Preparation Charter
D.C. Public Schools
Columbus United Schools (Charter Network)
Ednovate Charter Schools
Bryn Mawr Graduate Degree
University of Michigan Master’s program
YES Prep Charter Schools
Seton Education Partners (Religious and Charter schools)
TenSquare (Charter school support organiztion)
United Schools Network (a charter network)