The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Teach for America could face budget cut

Teach for America could face budget cut

(HELENA BOLOGNA/The Daily Campus)

Cuts to education budgets across the nation may deprive Texas public schools of a service that many poor districts have come to rely on: Teach for America teachers.

Budget proposals before the Texas legislature have indicated that the program, which placed about 5,500 teachers in schools across the nation last year, could lose some of its federal funding. The program will have to review its logistics and projected growth for 2011, according to Kaitlin Gastrock, Regional Director for Teach for America.

“We may have to slow the pace of our planned growth in the state of Texas by recruiting fewer teachers and impacting fewer students,” she said.

Teach for America received a record high of 48,000 applications from college seniors and professionals this year. Its reputation for providing well-trained teachers to help eliminate educational inequity in underprivileged regions has captured the attention of many college students around Dallas.

“Five percent of the senior class at Southern Methodist University applied this year,” Gastrock said.

However, Texas public schools are expecting their budget to fall nearly 23 percent if an estimated $10 billion of funding is cut over the next two years. The Dallas Independent School District in particular is facing a worst-case scenario with a reduction of about $253 million in state aid. The cuts will force public schools to terminate teachers and staff to compensate for their lack of financial support.

The Teach for America teachers, known as Corps members, will not receive any special treatment in a potential layoff process. They are also subject to the same layoff policies as all of the other teachers in the district.

The exact number of terminations for Dallas ISD public school employees has not yet been determined as the board of trustees awaits a final number for the budget cuts for the 2011-2012 school year.

“We’re not sure what the situation will look like. We’re still waiting to see what is decided,” Orenthal Wright, assistant principal at Nancy Cochran Elementary School, which employs Teach for America teachers, said.

Regardless of which proposal is selected, layoffs will be necessary to compensate for the reduction in budget.

The options now sit before the Texas Legislature, which has until May to determine the final budget. After its decision, the board of trustees will provide each of its schools with the same specific process to follow for terminations.

“Principals are reading the same thing you are on the district websites. We’re waiting to see what the money situation is,” Principal Jonnice Legum-Berns of Anne Frank Elementary School, which also employs Teach for America teachers, said.

Dallas ISD recently adopted a new policy that will take into consideration an employee’s performance when reductions become necessary. The new policy looks at a set of five criteria, which are, in order of importance: certification, performance, additional performance criteria, seniority and professional background. The new policy is aimed at keeping the most qualified and highest performing teachers in the classroom.

“We encourage districts to keep the most effective teachers in their classrooms, no matter what their pathway into teaching,” Gastrock said.

With the risk of teacher and staff reductions, it could be a daunting task for incoming Teach for America Corps members to start working at any public school experiencing the repercussions of the budget cuts.

With fewer employees, teachers and Corps members of these schools will worry about job security.

Kaitlin Meyer, SMU senior, was accepted into the Teach for America program last November and is scheduled to begin teaching in August of this year. Within the next couple of months, she will face some hard realities as she seeks to secure a teaching position with a public middle school in East Dallas.

“I have a lot of trust in the organization that if they accepted me then they will make sure that I am placed somewhere, but at the same time I’m nervous that I’ll have to move to a different state that I wasn’t anticipating teaching in,” she said.

In an e-blast sent to incoming Corps members in Dallas, Teach for America informed its accepted members that it has closed the Dallas/Fort Worth region to the fourth and fifth application deadlines for the 2011-2012 school year. They decided to stop accepting applications for the region to ensure that the applicants they have already accepted to the area will be guaranteed job placement within the district even with the budget cuts.

With a reduced number of employees, the student to teacher ratio could rise. This could prove to be a struggle in that the student to teacher ratio could hurt the overall success of the students, whose progress is measured by standardized testing at the end of each year.

“I think that when you have a large number of students in the classroom, the opportunity for a student to receive one-on-one attention and help is significantly decreased. And the teacher’s concern becomes more about controlling the classroom, rather than teaching the students,” Meyer said.

The final results of budget cuts Dallas ISD will incur are to be determined by the Texas Legislature no later than May 2011.

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