Gov. Hutchinson announces partnership with Teach for America, AEA expresses concern (Updated)

by Michael Wilkey ([email protected]) 418 views 

Editor’s note: Changes made to the story to reflect that the Arkansas Education Association has concerns about the Teachers for America program but has not taken a stand in opposition to the Arkansas program announced Wednesday.


A $6 million budget will help 9,000 students in low-income communities around the state as well as the teachers who provide an education to them, Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) and officials with a national teaching group said Wednesday (Jan. 27).

The agreement with Teach for America will also create a partnership with the Little Rock School District, officials said at the meeting at the Capitol.

Hutchinson said his office will fund $3 million in Teach For America–Arkansas that will help students in east and south Arkansas. The money will fund the training and support of approximately 150 new teachers in rural school districts over the next three years and has prompted a match of $3 million from Little Rock philanthropists and business leaders to bring Teach For America teachers to Little Rock School District for the first time next year.

Officials said Teach For America works in partnership with communities to expand educational opportunity for children facing the challenges of poverty. The program, founded in 1990, recruits and trains college graduates and professionals to make an initial two-year commitment to teach in high-need schools and become lifelong leaders in the effort to end educational inequity.

Today, 8,600 corps members are teaching in 52 urban and rural regions across the country while more than 42,000 alumni work across sectors to ensure that all children have access to an education, officials said Wednesday. The program is also part of the AmeriCorps national service network.

Arkansas Education Association President Brenda Robinson said in a statement late Wednesday that the initiative is misguided. In a later clarification to Talk Business & Politics, Robinson said the AEA has concerns about the program but does not oppose it.

“AEA does not oppose the public investment into education announced today but we do have concerns.”

The initial statement noted: “While we welcome the effort to provide additional resources to our public schools, we believe that it is best to invest in teachers who are already dedicated to the success of Arkansas’ students. An example of the State’s commitment to this is the funding provided to the nearly 3000 National Board Certified Teachers in Arkansas,” Robinson said. “NBCT teachers are not jump-starting a career in another sector, they are committed to being the best teachers they can be so that they can help students be academically successful. Arkansas students are counting on each of us to stand up for increased investment in public education so we are able to recruit and retain the best teachers possible for all of Arkansas’s students which includes investments in successful programs for educators.”

Continuing, she noted: “We want all public school teachers to succeed and AEA is the only organization that can provide support and empower the teachers as they work toward effective student outcomes. It is important to AEA that every public school teacher is successful and we will continue to make the case that Arkansas’s public school students are worth making increased investments in public school students and educators.”

In rural communities, the state’s investment will grow Teach For America’s work to encourage more top candidates to teach in rural communities and build their careers in the area. The 150 teachers supported by the state’s funding will reach at least 9,000 students in rural communities, an estimated 86% of whom qualify for free or reduced lunch.

The funding will also accelerate Teach For America’s new initiative to recruit hundreds of Arkansas’ top college students and professionals to teach in Arkansas’ rural communities over the next decade. Additionally, the funding will enable Teach For America to expand its teacher and school-leader professional development to hundreds of participants across the state.

The private match of public dollars will bring approximately 65 new teachers to Little Rock School District over the next three years and will include up to 15 teachers for the 2016–2017 school year. These teachers will reach up to 4,000 students in Little Rock and will be hired in the district’s highest-need schools and subjects.

Hutchinson said the program, which is already being implemented in eastern Arkansas, has provided dividends for many years.

“Teach For America has been a community partner in the Arkansas Delta region for 24 years. During that time, more than two dozen Arkansas communities have worked with Teach For America teachers, and their track record is summarized by one simple fact: nearly every district leader who worked with them asked for more teachers from the organization. Many of these strong teachers have gone on to have lasting and transformational impact in schools across the state, from the classroom and beyond. We look forward to the continuation of that work and the opportunity to bring Teach For America’s outstanding educators to the Little Rock School District as part of the district’s broader efforts to help students here soar to new heights,” Hutchinson said.

Executive Director of Teach For America-Arkansas Jared Henderson said the program also benefits from the support of state and local officials.

“We’re excited to have Teach For America corps members join school communities in Little Rock while continuing our longstanding commitment to excellent education for children growing up in rural communities. We’re grateful to Governor Hutchinson for his continued commitment to expanding opportunity for kids in rural Arkansas and his ongoing support for our work toward that goal,” Henderson said.