This isn’t exactly news, the outline of connections having long been obvious. But Pro Publica has drilled down into the ties between the charter school movement and Teach for America, with substantial financial support from the Walton Family Foundation.
Pro Publica found, for example, that the Waltons were putting more into payments to help charter schools hire TFA participants than into real public schools. Walton incentives seem to have had an impact.
The incentives corresponded to a shift in Teach For America’s direction. Although only 7% of students go to charter schools, Teach For America sent almost 40% of its 6,736 teachers to them in 2018 — up from 34% in 2015 and 13% in 2008. In some large cities, charter schools employ the majority of TFA teachers: 54% in Houston, 58% in San Antonio and at least 70% in Los Angeles.
TFA puts brainy college grads, many from elite schools, in districts in need of help. They have little training as teachers. Their burnout rate is high. But the “reformers” believe they are more promising than veteran teachers. It’s all based on the premise that school performance is more dependent on teachers than on the family backgrounds of children, particularly poverty.
The Walton Foundation has poured $100 million into TFA and hundreds of millions more into charter schools and other options to traditional public schools. The family also appears in other efforts that raise money to elect right-thinking politicians and school board members. See the Arkansas legislature and just wait until the day, should it ever come, that Little Rock School District voters get to have a school board again.