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Monday, October 21, 2013

Teach for America as An Interest Group

At Politico, Stephanie Simon reports that Teach for America is a powerful interest group.  It recently  beat the NEA by winning renewal of a provision defining teachers in training -- including TFA recruits -- as "highly qualified."
Convinced that quicker, bolder change is needed, TFA executives are mining their network of 32,000 alumni to identify promising leaders and help them advance.
TFA is now embedding select alumni in congressional offices and in high-ranking jobs in major school districts, including New York City and D.C. It’s providing start-up cash to alumni to launch “game-changing” advocacy groups and business ventures. Its political arm, meanwhile, is recruiting veteran tacticians to identify key levers of power in cities such as Houston — then help alumni seize them.
TFA’s most ambitious initiative is a $750,000 fellowship aimed at grooming alumni for posts as state cabinet secretaries or superintendents. Earlier this year, TFA selected 12 alumni to participate. A few already held top education policy jobs in major school districts; TFA helped the rest land senior positions in districts from D.C. to Garland, Tex. TFA pays for each fellow to work with a personal executive coach and sends them on regular leadership retreats.
TFA also selected seven alumni this year to work for senators, representatives and the House Education and the Workforce Committee.
The Capitol Hill Fellows do the work of regular congressional staffers. But in an arrangement that Hill ethics experts call highly unusual – though not illegal – their salaries are funded by a private individual. The entire $500,000 cost is picked up by Arthur Rock, a wealthy venture capitalist in San Francisco.
TFA’s political arm, Leadership for Educational Equality [sic: Equity], has also been ramping up its activity. The group recruits and trains TFA alumni to run for elected office – and helps them out financially with donations from the LEE treasury, which is stocked by both TFA and by private donors.