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Teacher Programs Face Loss of Funding With Trump's Proposed AmeriCorps Cut

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UPDATED

AmeriCorps could be on the chopping block in President Donald Trump's first budget proposal—and with it, several programs that support teachers, including Teach for America, could lose significant amounts of funding.

The New York Times reported that a draft of the budget lists nine domestic programs for elimination, including the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities—both of which provide resources for teachers and fund educational programs—and the Corporation for National and Community Service, which funds programs run by AmeriCorps. According to Chalkbeat, the proposed AmeriCorps cut would trim .03 percent of the federal budget, but would remove support from 11,000 schools.

The independent federal agency has an annual budget of $1 billion. About half of its grant funding goes to education-related work, Chalkbeat reported.

For instance, the vast majority of Teach for America members are AmeriCorps members, said Anne Mahle, the senior vice president of public partnerships for TFA, in an interview. [Post updated with this interview at 10:50 am 3/2]

Because of that partnership, TFA members 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. TFA 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. 

"For all of our corps members, this financial support makes teaching in a low-income school financially viable," Mahle said. Forty percent of the TFA corps is low-income, she said, 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.

And while TFA has other sources of funding, Mahle said the AmeriCorps partnership is critical to TFA's work. The annual $5,800 award multiplied by the 6,900 TFA corps members amounts to about $40 million a year. 

"One might find that [donation amount] from a very generous person once or twice, but that is not something you will consistently find," she said. 

Smaller teacher-prep programs also rely on AmeriCorps funding. Urban Teachers, a nonprofit that trains teachers in the Baltimore, District of Columbia, and Dallas areas, is in the first year of a potentially three-year AmeriCorps grant that gives its members up to $11,500 in two years of awards to pay off student debt or pay for a master's degree from John Hopkins School of Education. 

Urban Teachers CEO, Jennifer Green, said in an interview that the grant is part of the "lifeblood" of the organization and allows them to leverage other nonfederal grants. 

"[The AmeriCorps stipends] provide incentive to a group of very talented individuals who are also very diverse," she said. In this year's cohort, 58 percent of the members are people of color and about 40 percent are first-generation college-goers. "That's important to the districts we are serving," she said. Nationally, only 18 percent of teachers are nonwhite. 

Urban Teachers has its members participate in a yearlong residency experience before receiving a dual license in their content area and in special education. Then, the members have a three-year teaching commitment in their district. This year, Green said, there were 200 residents. Next year, she expects 300 residents, and the year after that, 500.  

"One of the challenges is, we have been recruiting next year's class ... with a likelihood that we would have this AmeriCorps program," Green said. "My worry is that even as we're recruiting a terrific class for next year, we're going to see some not show up [if the funding is cut]." 

Mahle said that TFA is already fielding phone calls from incoming corps members who are "deeply concerned" about the future of AmeriCorps. TFA is focusing its efforts on lobbying Congress to protect AmeriCorps funding, she said. 

Green said she hopes that when the president considers his priorities, he thinks about urban education.

"I think what's not well-known is the role AmeriCorps plays in providing support into urban classrooms. [Urban Teacher] residents are providing wraparound support, tutoring ... and making a sustained commitment to serve in the district in which they're training," Green said. "My worry is that the children who are going to become the majority of the country, the children of color, are the children we are totally underserving in these schools."

It remains to be seen if the AmeriCorps cuts will make it to the final version of Trump's budget, which is expected to be released in the coming weeks, and later taken up for consideration by Congress. My colleagues at Politics K-12 recently analyzed what else Trump's budget could mean for education—the Education Department is facing an up-to-10-percent cut.

Image by U.S. Department of Agriculture on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons

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