Teach For America Contract Costs Increasing Again

HCSBoard Seal

A quick follow up to my post from last Saturday, November 5th, Teach For America Costs Twice the Reported Amount: It would seem that I was correct that the cost of TFA was at least twice as much as had been reported. The Huntsville Times reported Sunday that the actual cost of the contract will be “at least twice as much as initially indicated.”

Bonvillian reports, “That brings the estimated price tag for the contract up to $1.7 million over the next several years.”

But now it seems that this number is increasing again. During the Bama game Saturday night, Dr. Robinson forwarded an email to me from Dr. Wardynski. It seems that Dr. Robinson was asking Dr. Wardynski about the total costs of the TFA contract. Dr. Wardynski wrote her back to say that the contract would cost $1.9 million rather than $1.7 million as we had reported.

In other words, the total number of TFA’ers Huntsville City Schools is planning to hire has increased again. During the initial presentation on October 11th, Mr. Carpenter, Alabama TFA Executive Director, claimed that the contract would call for the hiring of the following numbers:

  • 2012-2013: 30 TFA’ers
  • 2013-2014: 30 TFA’ers
  • 2014-2015: 50 TFA’ers

This contract would require $5,000 per teacher, per year. These TFA’ers would be hired by the district under alternative certification. So, when presented to the board, this contract would cost $1.1 million dollars for a total of 110 teachers over three years.

When the contract was published it had changed dramatically and then called for the following hiring pattern:

  • 2012-2013: 30 or more
  • 2013-2014: 40 or more
  • 2014-2015: 50 or more
  • 2015-2016: 50 or more

Following this pattern we will hire 170 total TFA’ers at a cost of $1.7 million for four years. You may find this information in the contract under Appendix A on page 16. It seems that the “or more” part of the contract has now been figured out.

On Saturday, Dr. Robinson shared with me that Dr. Wardynski had told her that the actual numbers will be as follows:

  • 2012-2013: 40
  • 2013-2014: 50
  • 2014-2015: 50
  • 2015-2016: 50

As you can see, we have now nearly doubled from the initial presentation the total contract as we’re now planning to hire 190 TFA’ers over the next four years. (Dr. Wardynski’s email actually had two different totals. The total expense was listed at $1.9 million, and his breakdown of the amount was as described above, but when he totaled the numbers he totaled them as 180. I have asked Dr. Robinson to clarify this discrepancy, but she has not responded.)

190 TFA’ers at a rate of $5,000 per teacher, per year for two years is $1,900,000 for the duration of the contract.

This deal is getting worse all the time.

The board will be meeting tomorrow night at 5:30pm at the Merts building, 200 White Street. I will be in attendance. As always, the meeting will be broadcast on ETV (Comcast 17, Knology 99), and at the Huntsville City Schools’ website. I will also be live-tweeting the meeting @russwinn. You can follow on Twitter or on the Geek Palaver Facebook Page.

Also Welcome to all my new readers! If you’d like to stay connected, please sign up for the email distribution list on the upper right hand side of the screen in the field next to the Subscribe button. Again, welcome and thanks for reading. We can make a difference.

"Children see magic because they look for it." --Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel according to Biff, Jesus' childhood pal.


  1. I hope this is the question you are asking tonight. I have 6…going to race through them…

    1. Well, 30 seconds per question shouldn’t be too rushed. Of course, your questions have more depth than mine! 🙂

      I’m going to be watching Aaron King’s presentation on Special Ed funding and developing questions on that. I’ve been waiting since September for those answers, but yeah, I’ll throw in a few others as well.

      1. Just because you ask the question doesn’t mean you will get an answer because the board is not obligated to answer.

        The only way we will get answers is if the media ask the questions.

        1. True. Typical the board and Dr. Wardynski will sit silently during the Citizen Comments. But those are a good way of getting an opposing point of view out there, which will occasionally get the media interested.

          1. channel 48 will be there. the questions will be recorded. i also have copies for concerned citizens.

  2. While I’m absolutely disgusted at the creeping cost and expanding size of the TFA contract, I’m torn on the discussion of the value they might bring to schools.

    On one hand, I acknowledge the value of being trained as a teacher. When I was in graduate school, funded in part by a teaching assistantship, I asked my advisor if I might be allowed to round out my degree with some graduate classes in education. Even though I knew my subject matter well, I sensed that I was ill-prepared to teach undergraduates as well as I should. That request was roundly denied: my doctoral degree was a research degree, I was told. As such, any classes (apart from Stats) from the School of Education would have to paid for out of my own pocket, and would be outside of my degree. Nevermind that there was an option for a “cognate” focus, where cross-discipline study was encouraged — learning how to teach was out of the question. I don’t know how common this sort of policy is, but I’ll hazard the guess that most college instruction is being provided by people trained in their field of study but NOT in educational methods. So are those students being short-changed and/or is there something unique about the K-12 environment that makes traditional certification more valuable?

    I think the answer to both of these questions is a qualified “yes.” But I also think it’s a bit of a disingenuous overstatement to insist (or assume) that certified teachers are ALWAYS the best candidates for every situation. There are those who enter the teaching profession for less than noble reason: because it’s portable, it’s conducive to raising their own families, it’s a comparatively easy degree, etc. Beyond that, I can’t tell you how many jaded, exhausted, “just hanging on to get my pension” veteran teachers I’ve encountered. And like it or not, there ARE simply ineffective teachers whose motivation is pure, whose education is stellar, but whose execution falls short.

    I’m reluctant to assume that all TFA candidates are motivated only by self-interest or even if that’s true, they will be poor substitutes for “real” teachers. That said, I am troubled that they are short-term employees. Constant turnover undermines most organizations, and I think the educational environment is particularly vulnerable. On the other hand, I’ve heard lots of criticism of the entrenched nature of schools where tenure has insulated rotten apples. Which situation is worse?

    Even the studies you’ve cited are problematic for me — after all, they’re simply relying on test scores to gauge the effectiveness of teaching. Not that I can suggest a better metric for this sort of comparative evaluation, but it seems inadequate. Peer reviewed journals disfavor qualitative studies, even though some subjects are better explained through that sort of analysis.

    So I can say that I don’t know where I stand on the TFA issue, but I’m thinking about it. My concern is that I don’t see the same level of thought from the people who are making the decision. Wardynski proposes this initiative because it’s part of system he’s been trained to implement. The board blindly signs off on it because that seems to be the only thing they are willing to do. That’s far less than I expect from any of them.

    1. Thanks for this thoughtful and cogent response. You’ve made many points that I agree with. I too come from a “non-traditional” background as a teacher at the college level, and so I agree that it’s certainly possible to be an effective teacher without holding a degree in education. This is certainly true at the college level where mastery of your subject matter is vastly more important than understanding the pedagogical underpinnings of your approach to how you communicate that material.

      Once a student enters the post-secondary level of education, he or she is primarily responsible for developing their own methods for grasping the material.

      However, that is significantly less true at the secondary level, and it is altogether impossible at the elementary level.

      I have not intended to say that all TFA candidates are motivated by self-interest, and I apologize if I’ve communicated that in my posts. I’m certain that there are TFA candidates who are completely committed to providing a excellent educational experience for their students. My primary issue isn’t that they don’t care, but rather that we’re having to pay extra for teachers with significantly less training (or none at all) than traditionally trained teachers in how to communicate their ideas in an effective way.

      You and I are in complete agreement that this should be discussed and thought about in an open way. We’re also in agreement that this has not happened to a sufficient degree among those who are charged with the management of our schools. I share your disappointment.

      Thanks again for your response, and for taking the time to read! I appreciate your opinion.

      1. Not suggesting that the “selfish motivation” critique came from you — I took that as a central theory in the Learning on Other People’s Kids book, based upon the quotes excerpted by other commenters. I have not read the book, so I’m not sure whether that’s an accurate characterization.

        1. Cool beans! 🙂 I didn’t take it personally, just wanted to make sure that it was clear that I wasn’t making that claim. I really appreciated your response.

    2. I appreciate your thoughtful response, and I agree with a good deal of it. We need to be able to get rid of “teachers” who are just hanging on until they get their pension, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater, which is happening in our city.

      Here’s a problem with TFA, Identified by a former TFA trainer in her book Learning On Other People’s Kids…page 23:

      “An opportunity to earn money for the repayment of college loans or graduate school tuition was cited by 80% of study participants as a major reason for their applying to Teach for America.”

      That money is the 10K our city will give each member, costing us 1.9 million dollars more than the certified individuals laid off over the past two years…1.9 million more than the qualified individuals who can’t get jobs.

      By the way, our third graduate won a prestigious Milken award (25K) yesterday…and the current state teacher of the year is an UAH alum…so there is something going on here that is good, and part of it involves us counseling individuals out of teaching…


      1. Speaking as a parent, I’m thrilled when I find out that my kids teachers are graduates of UAH. Alabama trains excellent teachers, and a teacher who is trained here is much more likely to put down roots here, and then also demand that their children also have the opportunity to receive an excellent education from superb teachers.
        WAY TO GO UAH!

        (And no, I do not work for UAH. :))

      2. Found an interesting blog — http://garyrubinstein.teachforus.org/2011/10/31/why-i-did-tfa-and-why-you-shouldnt/

        In fact, there are lots of red flags in the posts to this particular site, not just in Mr. Rubinstein’s contributions.

        And I’m ashamed to admit that I was totally confused about the way this program worked. I was operating under the assumption that the $5-$10K per trainee fee was ALL the district would be responsible for paying, not that this was on top of the ordinary teacher salary. I thought it was analogous to the Americorps program, which provides stipends for its participants. Changes the whole calculus, as it turns out. Ugh.

        1. Yep, the $5k per teacher per year for two years is on top of the regular salary and benefits that they will receive as a teacher in the system. I’m sorry that I haven’t made that clearer to everyone.

  3. Hi,

    Here in Seattle we are just getting TFA. Our school-based hiring teams only hired 6 (they had hoped for 35 between our district and another one).

    FYI, a couple of things:
    – this probably wouldn’t have happened so fast for us except that an ex-TFA became Dean of the College of Education at UW and so it was job one for him (public disclosure e-mails show this)
    – UW is our largest state university with no other alt cert program for those who want to become teachers and yet the only people who can be in their program are TFA recruits
    – our district pays only $4k per year per teacher and the other local district pays $3k. How they decide how much to charge is a mystery.
    – our district struck quite a contract – we did not promise to hire any of them; only that they can apply. Also, we would not pay any fee unless we had a private donor pay it. The district had to scramble to find someone and it’s only for a year.

    Our district has about 50-100 applications for every job. We didn’t (and don’t) need TFA. I applaud what TFA’s initial goals were but now they have morphed into a machine to expand their leadership into districts everywhere. They are NOT creating a teaching corps and they say so themselves at their website.

    We had a superintendent like yours (out of the Broad Superintendent’s academy). She muscled her way around but didn’t keep her eye on the ball and we had a financial scandal (she wasn’t involved but she should have known what was happening). She was “exited” with full pay. We now have an interim super who is much better but a big TFA fan.

    I’ll have to keep track of your blog. Good luck.

Comments are closed.