Teach For America

Cut the Budget and You Cut Opportunities for Teachers and Communities

When I joined Teach For America (TFA) in 2009, I not only became a TFA corps member, I became a member of AmeriCorps as well. The partnership between these two organizations has allowed thousands of teachers to join TFA and serve in low-income communities while earning education awards to help pay for their ongoing studies. For me, securing this award allowed me to complete my corps commitment and pursue the training I needed to become a certified teacher. I was able to teach full time, pursue graduate courses and professional development on weekends without worrying about how I would pay for my classwork. This summer, the House of Representatives put forward a version of the budget that includes a $340 million cut from Americorps funding —which translates to 29 percent of current funding or 32,000 fewer members nationwide . This is despite the fact that AmeriCorps, which was founded in 1994, has contributed over a billion hours of service in the past 21 years and jump-started the careers of hundreds of thousands of service-minded graduates. Teach For America, which is already facing a challenging recruitment season , would feel this impact, and so would students in our most challenged schools. Other programs that serve children and families, like City Year and Habitat for Humanity, also would be greatly affected by these drastic cuts. Unfortunately, AmeriCorps has faced these budget threats before. In 2011, after months of negotiations, AmeriCorps lost 6 percent of its grant funding . We need to ensure that these proposed cuts are restored. Teaching in a low-income community is challenging, rewarding and powerful work and we need our most mission-driven graduates to be doing it.   We also need these same graduates to pursue other opportunities that combat our country’s inequities, like CityYear —another AmeriCorps program that works to eliminate the daunting educational achievement gap across the country—and AmeriCorps VISTA , which works in communities with extreme poverty. I still support TFA alumni whose career trajectories have been fundamentally rerouted because of their experience as both TFA corps and AmeriCorps members. Simply put: I would not have devoted my career to the educational equity fight if not for Teach For America and the AmeriCorps Education Award—and I know that there are thousands of other alumni of the program who would say the same thing. Last year, nearly 50 percent of incoming TFA teachers received Pell Grants —the most reliable indicator of low-income background—likely making the AmeriCorps Education Award even more integral to their commitment. The  one million alumni of AmeriCorps programs would not be where they are today without the program. In fact, looking just at TFA alumni, 84 percent continue to work in education or directly in low-income communities—that’s tens of thousands of people who might never have found these more mission-driven careers without AmeriCorps. These also are the young people working in neighborhoods planting community gardens and going on to work on sustainable agriculture. They are CityYear alumni whose lives are now dedicated to low-income communities. These are the VISTA volunteers who work tirelessly to give back to their cities. Without this money, the landscape of our country would look drastically different, and we need to raise our voices to ensure that doesn’t happen. Here's what you can do to help:  
Liz Riggs is a writer and educational equity advocate who lives in Nashville, Tennessee.
Liz is a writer and educational equity advocate who lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

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