Teaching Profession

Teach for America Fights Back Against Trump’s Proposed AmeriCorps Cut

By Madeline Will — March 17, 2017 3 min read
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President Donald Trump has let the ax fall on AmeriCorps in his first budget proposal—a cut that could cripple Teach for America, along with smaller teacher training programs.

Trump’s budget, which still has to be approved by Congress, would scrap the Corporation for National and Community Service, which funds programs run by AmeriCorps. This cut had previously been reported by the New York Times last month, and I wrote then about what that would mean for Teach for America, which relies heavily on AmeriCorps funding for its members.

The vast majority of TFA members are AmeriCorps members, and because of that, they can defer their federal student loans during their two years of service, and they don’t have to pay interest on the loans during that time period. AmeriCorps members also receive an annual $5,800 award that they can use to pay off student loans, earn a master’s degree, or offset the cost of certification.

In a statement, TFA expressed deep concern about Trump’s budget proposal, which also includes a $9 billion, or 13 percent, cut to the Education Department.

“The initial proposed cuts to the Department of Education and total elimination of AmeriCorps would seriously impact Teach for America’s mission of building a diverse network of leaders committed to educational equity,” the statement read. “AmeriCorps Education Awards reduce the financial barriers to service, enabling Teach for America to provide a route to service in our nation’s urban and rural communities for a more diverse group of leaders.”

As I reported before, 40 percent of the TFA corps is low-income, and 84 percent applied for financial aid in order to be able to teach. The average student loan burden of a TFA corps member is over $27,000—so TFA leaders are concerned that without AmeriCorps loan relief, some of its members will not be able to afford to work in a low-income school.

TFA plans to lobby Congress to protect AmeriCorps in the final budget. The organization also launched an email-writing campaign for its supporters to contact their members of Congress and ask for the national service programs to remain intact.

The CEO of TFA, Elisa Villanueva Beard, tweeted:

Suzanne Harris, a sophomore at Towson University, will graduate and be certified to teach in the state of Maryland—but she hopes to join Teach for America to work with students in areas of greater need. She said in an email that she would rely on the AmeriCorps award to assist with the financial burden of moving to a new state and then paying to become certified to teach in that state.

“I grew up attending urban schools and know the struggles students face when there’s a lack of resources or qualified teachers at school,” Harris wrote. “Too many children in the U.S. grow up in poverty, and I want to help them. A proper education by a certified teacher is crucial to provide students with the keys to improve their lives. I’m not naive, and I know I can’t change the world, but funding AmeriCorps is a step in the right direction.”

Alyson Klein and Andrew Ujifusa have covered the ins and outs of the Trump budget, which scraps the $2.25 billion in Title II grants, which states and districts use to hire and train teachers. As my colleague Brenda Iasevoli just reported, education stakeholders are concerned about losing high-quality professional development, although there is debate over whether some of the federally funded programs help student achievement.

It’s important to note that Trump’s proposed cuts will likely be a tough sell in Congress, and it might take months before a final budget is passed.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.