Teach For America Expands
Teach For America (TFA) recently announced a fundraising drive to support a major expansion over the next five years. TFA, whose 2005 budget was $38.5 million, has set its goal at $60 million in one-time capacity-building grants. Half of this goal has already been pledged by Doris and Don Fisher and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation (both pledging $10 million), and by the Broad Foundation and the Robertson Foundation in New York (each pledging $5 million). TFA is a national corps of recent college graduates who agree to teach for two years in high schools serving economically depressed urban and rural areas. According to Wendy Kopp, founder and president, the program now fields 3,500 corps members teaching across the country; by 2010, she hopes to have expanded to 8,000 corps members. TFA’s alumni are expected to more than double over the same period, and 60 percent of them, if current patterns hold, will continue working full-time in education.
Don Fisher, founder and chairman emeritus of Gap Inc. and TFA board member, says he and his wife, Doris, “believe that Teach For America’s growth and success is critical to the growth of other educational reform efforts, including the charter school and small schools efforts. We are excited about the potential this expansion plan has to create reform leaders for the coming decades.”
Eli Broad, founder of the Broad Foundation, concurs: “We believe that this infusion of high-quality teachers, coupled with strong management in our urban schools, will improve the education of all children and narrow achievement gaps.”
The New York Times recently reported that Teach For America is becoming an increasingly popular option for students at top colleges. In 2005, 12 percent of Yale’s graduating class applied to the program, as did 11 percent of Dartmouth’s and 8 percent of Harvard’s and Princeton’s. All told, TFA applications increased by more than 30 percent.
One public policy dispute is whether TFA-supplied teachers perform as well as conventionally trained teachers. A study last year by Mathematica Policy Research found that TFA corps members produce slightly better math results in their students than conventional teachers, and a 2005 evaluation by Kane Parsons & Associates found that 63 percent of principals in schools where TFA corps members work rate them more effective than the regular faculty.
Enforce Donor Intent
Over 70 percent of Americans told pollsters that when a nonprofit organization violates donor intent by using money “for a purpose other than the one for which it was given,” the managers of the organization should be legally liable “for acting in a fraudulent manner,” according to a nationwide Zogby survey. Almost 47 percent said such nonprofits should be held criminally liable as well. Over 78 percent would “definitely” or “probably” stop donating “to any nonprofit organization that accepts contributions for one purpose and uses the money for another.”
The survey was commissioned by the Robertson family (not related to the Robertson Foundation giving to Teach For America), who are plaintiffs in perhaps the largest “donor intent” lawsuit in U.S. history (Robertson v. Princeton University). The Robertson family is arguing in court that Princeton has improperly spent more than $200 million from a special charitable fund that was intended to prepare graduate students for U.S. government careers in foreign policy and diplomacy. Established by the late Charles and Marie Robertson in 1961 with a $35 million gift, the fund’s current value is more than $650 million.
The case goes to trial later this year.
This year the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia, is offering an unusual course in philanthropy. Students are grouped into a mission committee, which drafts a goal statement, and a grants committee, which uses that statement to guide its evaluation of grant proposals. The course concludes with the students awarding $10,000 to one or several local nonprofits.
Philanthropist Doris Buffett, sister of billionaire Warren Buffett, provided the seed money for this course and similar ones at the University of Virginia and Davidson College in North Carolina. She told the Associated Press that she hoped that some of the students “will make a good living and at some point in their lives, they’ll be engaged in philanthropy. It shouldn’t be scary.”
If the first course is successful, Buffett intends to renew her donation annually.
As public policy debates rage in K-12 education reform, two new studies shed light on some contested issues, potentially changing the terms of the debates. First, an unusual coalition of education philanthropies underwrote a study of charter schools by the Center on Reinventing Public Education. The study found that American charter schools enroll students with disabilities and low-income students in nearly the same proportions as schools in surrounding districts, thus refuting the contention that charter schools “cream off” the easier-to-teach students. Robin J. Lake, associate director of the center, and its director, Paul T. Hill, co-edited the study and released the findings at an Urban Institute forum.
The study was commissioned by the Achelis & Bodman Foundations, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Daniels Fund, Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Heinz Endowments, Jaquelin Hume Foundation, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Pisces Foundation, Rodel Charitable Foundation, and Walton Family Foundation.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation also funded a study of five urban school districts by the New Teacher Project, which found that teachers’ union contracts hinder efforts to improve teaching. Seniority rules keep incumbent teachers employed without regard to their competence or students’ need. Principals are forced to accept these teachers, and 40 percent of their faculty on average are “must” hires. Newer teachers can be forced out regardless of their success with students. Principals typically react by hiding vacancies from their district’s central office and encouraging their own mediocre teachers to transfer to other schools, where administrators are forced to accept them.
Moores Give The Most
Gordon E. Moore, co-founder of the Intel Corp., and his wife, Betty, have overtaken Bill and Melinda Gates as the nation’s Most Generous Philanthropists on BusinessWeek’s fourth annual survey. The Moores’ personal giving totaled more than $7 billion between 2001 and 2005. Over that same span, the Gates personally donated a little less than $5.5 billion. (The Gates’ lifetime giving, however, surpasses the Moores’ giving by more than $20 billion.)
Sir John Marks Templeton, the investor who started Templeton Mutual Funds (now Franklin Templeton Investments), appeared on the list for the first time. He ranked eleventh, giving away $562 million to the John Templeton Foundation, which is best known for fostering the study of science and religion. The foundation’s current president is Sir John’s son, Dr. John Templeton Jr., a retired surgeon.
Others ranked near the top include Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren E. Buffett (third); Eli and Edythe Broad (fifth); the Walton family (seventh); and Ruth Lilly, heiress to the Eli Lilly pharmaceutical fortune (twelfth).