Teach for America (TFA) is a teacher placement and training organization founded in 1990 by Wendy Kopp. TFA trains highly ranked undergraduate students in universities to teach in schools for a two-year period.
TFA strategically places its teaching staff, known as “corps members,” in poorly funded schools for two-year periods. Historically, TFA’s approach to quality education focused primarily on quality teachers, accountability, and measurable assessments of academic rigor.
TFA has been criticized for a distinct shift from a cross-ideological policy of support for excellence in education toward prioritizing left-of-center ideological values. In the past, TFA was a strong and visible supporter of charter schools, an education reform policy that earned the group support from mainstream Democrats and Republicans alike; in recent years and under new executive director Elisa Villanueva Beard, TFA’s advocacy has shifted toward full-spectrum left-of-center policy on educational and non-educational issues alike. 
Many TFA employees, including executive directors for statewide regions have been embroiled in scandals, arrested, or associated with violent left-wing groups.
In 1994, the number of pupils under TFA teachers grew to 45,000, while operations grew to 51 regions in most states across the U.S. 
By 2000, TFA had partnered with several public schools and organized a board to continue their expansion. In 2007, Wendy Kopp founded Teach for All along with Brett Wigdortz, which continues a similar mission on an international scale. Wigdortz is also founder and chief executive of Teach First, a similar organization that operates in England and Wales. 
Today, TFA operates with approximately 60,000 corps members and active alumni combined, working as teachers, principals, state representatives, city council members, and school board members.  TFA made staff cuts in 2015 for the first time in its history, and again in 2016 when it was reported that 15 percent of staff would be laid off. This decrease coincided with a significant decrease in TFA applicants (57,000 in 2013 v. 37,000 in 2016) after coming under fire from teachers unions and other left-wing figures; some have speculated that the applicant decline contributed to the organization’s left-wing pivot. 
Historically, Teach For America aligned with what TFA alumnus and writer Sohrab Ahmari called “a simple but powerful idea: that teacher quality is the decisive factor in the educational outcomes produced by schools.”  Teachers unions targeted TFA for its support of education reforms and teacher accountability, with Karen Lewis, the radical then-president of the Chicago Teachers Union, suggesting that TFA’s “policies [. . .] kill and disenfranchise children.” 
The 2000s through the early 2010s were characterized by a strong cross-ideological approach to education reform through teacher accountability; conservative figures offered TFA marked support.  Conservative education reformers such as Anne Wicks, the director of education reform at the George W. Bush Institute, were often past TFA corps members. Then-First Lady Laura Bush spoke at several schools in support of TFA between 2001 and 2003.    Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) publicly supported TFA’s Kentucky chapter as well. 
TFA has actively recruited immigrants under the protection of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status created to provide legal status to certain illegal immigrants by the Obama administration since 2013. The organization’s “Immigrant Network” praises the contributions of TFA-associated current or former illegal immigrants.  
After the election of President Donald Trump, Teach for America issued a statement making eleven “demands” of Education Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos and the incoming administration. Among the “demands” was a call to retain the DACA program established by the Obama administration without authorization from Congress. 
At the organization’s 25th anniversary summit in Washington, Teach for America teachers and organization officials endorsed left-wing “intersectionality,” a theory that holds that relative and interlocking oppression of various identity groups should determine political action. A number of panels featured speeches by left-wing activists on identity-politics issues. 
Then-President Barack Obama promoted Brittany Packnett, founder of TFA’s “The Collective” and executive director for Teach For America’s St. Louis region, to the Ferguson commission and to the“21st century policing commission”; both commissions were geared toward identifying race and ethnicity as systemic law enforcement issues. 
DeRay McKesson, a politician and activist who rose to prominence as a leader of the Black Lives Matter movement, is a Teach for America alumnus who spoke on a TFA panel titled “A Chorus of Voices: Building Power Together” at the 25th anniversary event. 
Criticism and Controversies
Teach For America has endorsed left-wing ideologically aligned curriculum and teaching values, publishing blogs and advocating in favor of “culturally relevand pedagogy.”  The far-left teaching methods were also promoted at the 25th anniversary event. 
Attacks on Conservatives
TFA has harshly criticized Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. DeVos is well known for supporting education policies in line with TFA’s historical positions in favor of teacher quality and accountability, including value-added teacher ratings to assess performance.  As well, TFA and executive director Elisa Villanueva Beard criticized the Trump administration on social issues while the administration authorized to divert $20 billion toward greater school choice, which TFA historically supported.  TFA’s official statement on the DeVos nomination made no mention of these shared values and was exclusively critical of the nomination. 
Although other reports previously identified donors from Teach For America’s website, it no longer publicly lists its donors. Between 2000 and 2013, TFA’s funding increased 1,930 percent.  TFA received $45 million in government grants in 2017, according to tax records. 
The following organizations have made contributions of greater than $5 million to TFA in recent years. 
- The Walton Family Foundation
- Silicon Valley Community Foundation
- The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation
- Robertson Foundation
- Laura and John Arnold Foundation
TFA lists its leadership positions on its website, including their National Board of Directors and National Advisory Board of The Collective. Wendy Kopp is the co-founder of TFA and current CEO of Teach for All, along with value investor Whitney Tilson; Douglas Shulman, IRS commissioner under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama; and Richard Barth, founder of the charter school network KIPP (and Kopp’s husband). Elisa Villanueva Beard has worked as TFA’s CEO since 2015; she joined TFA as a corps member in 1998. Wendy Kopp now serves on TFA’s board.