The Michigan Student Assembly passed a resolution last week supporting Teach For America in its bid to retain federal funding. TFA has relied on federal funding for years, and this money plays an instrumental role in the organization’s ability to recruit new teachers and serve America’s underperforming school districts. This is a crucial time for TFA as it considers the prospect of expanding to cities like Detroit and Seattle next year.

Since its inception, over 24,000 individuals have participated in Teach For America impacting the lives of over 3 million students nationwide. Currently, some 7,300 corps members teach in 35 regions, both urban and rural. In 2010, more than 46,000 applicants applied for this fall’s class of 4,350 teacher corps members. Here at the University, 461 seniors applied — an astounding 7.4 percent of the senior class. For the past four years, the University has been the nation’s largest contributor to TFA’s teacher corps.

In America, education is supposed to be the great equalizer and the primary vehicle for upward mobility. But all too often, birthplace determines a student’s educational prospects. Across the country, the 14 million children living in poverty have academic setbacks and, therefore, life prospects that are dramatically different than those of their peers in wealthier communities. Children living in low-income communities are already two to three grades behind their higher-income peers by the time they reach fourth grade. About 50 percent of students in low-income communities will not graduate from high school by the age of 18. Only one in 10 students from low-income communities graduate from college.

Teach For America is working to end this national inequity and close the achievement gap. After recruiting some of America’s brightest into its teacher corps, TFA intensively trains these individuals over the summer and places them in America’s poorest school systems. There, they teach classes, mentor students, and provide hope for school districts that badly need attention.

But Teach For America’s work is in jeopardy. A new congressional proposal would eliminate TFA’s federal funding for 2011-2012. For years, TFA has relied on federal funding to continue its programs and outreach to America’s poorest communities. Losing this support would seriously inhibit the organization from its long-term goal of ending education inequity across America.

This year, TFA requested $50 million from Congress to meet increasing demand among college students and communities. Without this funding, TFA would be unable to hire more than 1,350 teachers who would teach 86,000 students in the coming school year. Losing this funding would severely limit the ability of TFA to recruit potentially qualified applicants at the University and other schools. It could also prevent TFA from expanding to Detroit, a city in desperate need of education reform.

But you can help save TFA.

First, contact your U.S. senators and representatives in Washington and urge them to support federal funding for TFA. Call the offices of U.S. Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow. Visit TFA’s website at There you can send letters and e-mails to your representatives in Washington urging them to support TFA.

Most importantly, educate yourself on the work of TFA and the ways you can get involved. Learn about their programs, meet with their on-campus representatives, attend information sessions and consider TFA after graduation. Talk to friends who are or will be in the program next year. Learn about their experiences and understand the impact of their work on thousands of children nationwide.

As the largest contributor to TFA’s teacher corps, the University community must defend this organization accordingly. Teach For America needs our help — let’s join them in their fight.

Jason Raymond is the vice president of MSA and Alex Serwer is MSA’s chief of staff.

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