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January 25, 2015

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Legislature 2013:

Bill to fund Teach For America educators moves forward in Senate


Mona Shield Payne

Eighth-grade teacher Matt Angelo quickly passes out textbooks to his students in preparation for lessons on the Holocaust in English Literature class during Teach For America Week at Dell H. Robison Middle School in Las Vegas Tuesday, April 30, 2013.

The Senate Finance Committee has approved spending $2 million during the next two years to recruit teachers for high-risk schools in Clark County.

Each of the next two years, $1 million will go to the nonprofit Teach For America to supply teachers for a two-year period.

Committee Chairwoman Sen. Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, called Senate Bill 517 “a solid investment.” She said she supports programs that reduce dropout rates and send students to graduation.

Sen. Joyce Woodhouse, D-Las Vegas, said she supports the measure but expressed concern that the teachers are committed to just a two-year tenure.

The only opposition came from the Clark County Education Association. Craig Steven testified Tuesday the association supports the program but questions the priorities in spending. He said the money should be spent for professional development statewide for teachers.

The $2 million will be augmented by $4 million in private donations from Southern Nevada foundations, corporations and individuals. The recruited teachers will concentrate on secondary math, science, English and special education.

Joyce Haldeman of the Clark County School District said it will have to recruit 2,000 teachers. She said the school principals are highly in favor of this program.

Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, said Tuesday that questioned how Stevens could oppose the measure when the current school support formula leaves Clark County with little money for schools.

Teach For America representatives said most of its teachers earn their master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from UNLV while teaching.

The bill now goes to the floor of the Senate.

The committee also approved Senate Bill 487 to allocate $5 million to continue the Gov. Kenny Guinn Millennium Scholarship Program to help students in higher education.

Committee staff said that the $5 million together with $8 million in settlement funds from tobacco litigation, will keep the fund solvent until 2017.

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  1. Before we decide if this is a good idea or not, it might be worthwhile to read the comments of Mark Dayton, the Governor of Minnesota as he vetoed a line item of 1.5 Million for TFA.

    Dear Madam President:

    I have received, approved, signed, and deposited in the Office of the Secretary of State Chapter 99,
    Senate File 1236, the Omnibus Higher Education Bill, with the exception of the line item vetoes listed below:

    The following items of appropriation are vetoed for the reasons below:

    Page 5. line 5.29: A $750,000 item of appropriation in FY 14 and a $750,000 item of
    appropriation in FY15 for Teach for America.

    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.


    Mark Dayton

    This is a link to the letter filed in the Minnesota State Archives.

  2. I am glad to see TFA funded because their teachers do contribute greatly to their schools. I wish TFA was a 3 year commitment but the reality is that without TFA teachers, inner city schools would be left with long term substitutes in high needs areas. TFA teachers are often willing to work extra hours and lead extracurriculars, plus TFA provides the on the job training that is desperately needed. Until we provide financial incentives for teachers to work in high poverty areas, TFA will at least help solve some of our recruitment concerns.