Teach for America and Walmart - it kind of says it all, no?
The Walton Foundation (the folks who brought us Walmart) just fattened TFA's coffers with a nearly $50M grant to "double the size of Teach for America's national teaching corps over the next three years." What's hilarious is that TFA isn't building a teaching corps. Here's what Wendy Kopp, the dark lord of TFA, had to say:
With this critical investment, Teach for America will be able to develop more of our talented recent college graduates and professionals to become longterm champions of educational equity and excellence," said Wendy Kopp, Teach for America's founder and CEO, in a statement. "The support and partnership is a vital part of Teach for America's effort to expand our network of corps members and alumni, who are dedicated to improving educational outcomes for children in our urban and rural communities."
Did she say anything about a teaching corps? No, she didn't. It's about expanding their "network of corps members and alumni."
Where would the money go (not here, thank goodness):
Besides helping to expand the organization's operations, the other half of the new $49.5 million grant will go towards training and support for corps members in seven communities the foundation states are among its priority areas: Denver, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Newark, New Orleans, Washington, D.C. and the Delta region of Mississippi, where the Bentonville, Arkansas-based foundation is headquartered.
What is interesting is that those areas just happen to overlap with some of Walmart's expansion plans. Oh.
Just a side note on educational philanthropy:
In the world of education philanthropy, the donation solidifies Teach for America's standing as the recipient of the most grant money directed towards the improvement of teaching and learning, according to a report released earlier this month by a team of researchers from the University of Georgia and Kronley & Associates focused on foundation giving to education.
Between 2000 and 2008, researchers concluded that philanthropies donated $684 million specifically towards the improvement of teaching and learning. Of this money, 60 percent went towards 10 organizations. According to their analysis, Teach for America received the most, with more than $213 million in grant money.
The report also concluded that 10 foundations accounted for exactly half of all grants given. In the world of education philanthropy, three foundations topped the list: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation and the Broad Foundation.
Talk about your usual suspects.
Apparently some find this an odd pairing.
Jeffrey Henig, a professor of political science and education at Columbia University's Teachers College, sees a pattern of giving by the Walton Family Foundation. Its philanthropy, he says, while initially focused on hard-core conservative issues like vouchers and privatization has since expanded to include initiatives like charter schools.
"While groups like Teach for America have done a good job of blurring partisan boundaries, I can't help but think of this alliance as a pairing of strange bedfellows," said Henig. "I keep waiting for what I expect are some serious disagreements on core principles to flare up and bring the implicit tension finally out into the open. But so far, it really hasn't happened yet."
For Diane Ravitch, a New York University education historian and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education, the pairing raises more than a few alarm bells.
"The Walton Family Foundation is the most conservative-leaning in the education philanthropy business," she said. "Their giving is almost entirely to charters and vouchers. So now you have charters and vouchers and Teach for America -- or the mainstreaming of their right-wing agenda."
For Reckhow, the grant shows how well-legitimized an organization Teach for America has become, particularly among a certain sector of policymakers and education reformers.
"Giving to Teach for America is now about as mainstream a thing as you can do," she said.
And that's just how TFA likes it.
In one other story, a reader here had alerted us that TFA has partnered with Apple so that people could donate their old iPad (is there such a thing at this point?) to TFA recruits to use in high-need schools.
Well guess what? Hang onto those iPads because NO ONE is saying anything about how this works. I called Apple and got quite a peppy PR person who told me absolutely nothing. Didn't know when or how or why the program started. Said to contact TFA (which I had already done). Haven't heard back from TFA (and I don't expect to, either).
Now if Apple wanted deserving schools to get used iPad, why channel it through TFA? Why not dump the middleman and just donate in their neighborhood school districts?
I'll lay odds there's a TFA Tribble up the food chain at Apple and "somehow" this all got done.
But where will your iPad go?
In a black hole because no one is explaining how it works or what happens when (not if) the TFA recruit moves on, nada. Have an old iPad you want in a high-need school? Give it to the district's IT department or just give it to a teacher at one of those schools. Skip Apple AND TFA.