Teacher program receives funding
by Rory Doyle
Jun 28, 2013 | 1723 views | 0 0 comments | 77 77 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Waltons, heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune, recently provided a $4.3 million donation to sustain and expand Teach For America operations in Mississippi and Arkansas.

The TFA program, which recruits aspiring teachers to work for two years at underserved schools in the Delta and across the nation, has made a significant local impact with it's intense summer training institute hosted at Delta State University.

DSU serves as the only rural training site for the long-running program.

The Waltons have been giving money to TFA since 1993, with donations nearing $15 million over the years.

"Teach For America is one of our most strategic partners in the effort to ensure all children in the Delta region have access to a quality education," Kathy Smith, senior program officer for the Walton Family Foundation, said in a statement.

The foundation is based in Bentonville, Ark.

The increase in funding will allow Teach For America to expand from 550 teachers in the two states in the just-concluded school year to 582 this fall and 610 in the fall of 2014.

The majority of those teachers — 375 — were in Mississippi in the most recent year.

Some Mississippi and Arkansas districts that have trouble recruiting teachers have become increasingly reliant on TFA to staff their schools since the program has been working to improve the quality of education in the region since 1991.

Cody Shumaker, principal at Ray Brooks Elementary in Duncan, knows firsthand the local impact of TFA teachers.

Shumaker was a TFA teacher in the Delta before working at the institute, now in its fourth year at DSU.

"It's extremely important that the Walton Family Foundation recognizes the need for quality educators in our area," said Shumaker. "The issue of teacher shortages in our area is real.

"Teach For America has the potential to bring us excellent teachers with a unique perspective."

Ray Brooks will be utilizing the leadership of three TFA teachers at its school this upcoming academic year.

Shumaker also credited support from the state of Mississippi, which gives the program $6 million a year in public money.

The Walton money will help pay for TFA operations over a two-year period,

Through the program, schools pay teachers a regular salary, but TFA pays for the summer training, as well as Saturday classes during the school year.

"Each year we have to turn away qualified, dynamic applicants due to the lack of funding," TFA Mississippi director Ron Nurnberg said in a statement. "With this grant we will be able to deepen our relationship with Delta schools by placing hardworking, transformative leaders in many more local classrooms."

Teach For America is based in New York, but regional organizations must handle much of their own fundraising.