Thursday, March 03, 2011

Teach for America: Letting the cream rise

George Will with a great article about TFA, calling on Congress to preserve its funding:

In government, the axiom is: Personnel is policy. In education, Kopp believes, "people are everything" - good ones are (in military parlance) "force multipliers." Creating "islands of excellence" depends entirely on finding "transformational leaders deeply committed to changing the trajectories" of children's lives.

We do not, she insists, have to fix society or even families in order to fix education. It works the other way around. The movie "Waiting for Superman" dramatizes what TFA has demonstrated - that low-income parents leap at educational opportunities that can break the cycle of poverty. Teaching successfully in challenging schools is, Kopp says, "totally an act of leadership" by people passionately invested in the project.

Speaking of leadership, someone in Congress should invest some on TFA's behalf. Government funding - federal, state, local - is just 30 percent of TFA's budget. Last year's federal allocation, $21 million, would be a rounding error in the General Motors bailout. And Kopp says that every federal dollar leverages six non-federal dollars. All that money might, however, be lost because even when Washington does something right, it does it wrong.

It has obtusely defined "earmark" to include "any named program," so TFA has been declared an earmark and sentenced to death. If Congress cannot understand how nonsensical this is, it should be sent back to school for remedial instruction from some of TFA's exemplary young people.


Teach for America: Letting the cream rise

By George F. Will
Sunday, February 27, 2011

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