Alexander, Clinton Bill Aims to Boost Teach for America Program

Legislation Will Help Memphis Double New Teachers, Expand Outreach to 8500 Students

Posted on March 22, 2007

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) today joined Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) in introducing legislation to authorize up to $25 million for the expansion of the Teach for America (TFA) program to “call upon our country’s most promising future leaders” with varying backgrounds and skills to spend two years teaching in schools – such as those in Memphis – that need and ask for them. Last year, TFA announced the addition of the city of Memphis, TN to the program in response to requests from Alexander and local leaders for help in improving literacy and math skills in low-performing schools. Thus far, TFA has brought 50 teachers to the city’s public schools since this fall, and with further funding, Memphis plans to expand its outreach to 8,500 students next year as well as double the number of teachers to 100. “We worked hard to have Teach For America's expansion reach Memphis, and it was great news for students, schools and for the future of public education in the city when they came to town,” Alexander said. “Nearly 4,080 Memphis students have benefited already, and this legislation will help TFA place some of our country’s most promising future leaders in classrooms in Memphis and all over America.” At the same time, Alexander emphasized, the bill will not turn TFA into a federal program, but rather supplement privately raised funds. TFA is aiming to grow from 4,400 to 8,000 “corps members,” across more than 30 regional sites. In the program’s 16 year history, it has recruited and trained more than 14,000 teachers, helping more than 2 million students. According to TFA, this year's 2,400 entering corps members were chosen from a pool of nearly 19,000 applicants and had an average GPA of 3.5. Over 95 percent held positions of leadership at their undergraduate universities. Teach For America was founded in 1990 by Wendy Kopp, who had just graduated from Princeton. In its first year, TFA served just six communities. Today it serves 25. The organization raises more than 75 percent of its operating budget through non-federal sources, primarily through philanthropic gifts in the communities it serves.