So we had an unexpected hit in the press this weekend. The Corps Knowledge campaign is about press but it’s also not necessarily about being in it. I got quoted being flip (which is what I normally do when I am trying to make a point...for good or ill) but in the aftermath there were a couple of things that kept rising to the surface of the chatter. We thought they were important enough to address, so here they are:
We’re not TFA.
Some people wonder how closely this campaign is linked to Teach For America. I suppose if you weren’t with us at the launch you might legitimately ask that question. So to respectfully set the record straight, we aren’t linked to Teach For America at all. I am not a corps member or alumni. Our advisory board members are all alumni of the corps or TFA's staff and they specifically speak as alumni who’ve had a good experience and who believe in TFA, its mission and its efforts to improve education in this country. TFA itself has to serve a diverse alumni base that includes people who like it and people who oppose it. We don’t. And in occupying that position, the Corps Knowledge team is decidedly outside of TFA.
We raise money, just like TFA’s critics.
It follows from the first point that Corps Knowledge raises funds to do this work. After all, it costs money to defend the things you support and believe in. We’ve been very up front about it in a major press venue because we don’t have anything to hide. To be honest, there are lots of folks interested in supporting an organization that defends TFA, and while we fortunately don’t need a ton of money, it’s nice to know we could do more if needed.
There’s nothing cloak-and-dagger about what we’re trying to do. We’re transparent about the fact that we’ve raised funding for this effort—which is a lot more than can be said for some folks coming off of the bench to object this week. Jose Vilson suggested on Twitter that he could think of much better ways to use the funds we’ve raised than our communications efforts. This is ironic given that he was recently named as a Progressive Education Fellow for The Progressive Magazine after they received $100,000 in funding from the National Education Association to “correct the narrative about progressive education.” The fellows are led by Jeff Bryant who has also received substantial funding from the NEA in recent years.
That’s all fine. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. But it means these people are also living in proverbial glass houses. In other words, Vilson offers critiques of Corps Knowledge being a funded communications campaign, while being part of a funded communications campaign himself—one which, to my knowledge, he hasn’t disclosed or critiqued. Maybe I missed it. I’m always happy to be shown otherwise.
This isn’t surprising, however. Many of TFA’s detractors are front groups—funded by organizations with a vested interest in TFA’s demise—who are far less forthcoming when it comes to discussing who funds them. We’re not stopping anyone from raising money. But when you ask the question, you need to be ready to answer it for yourself as well.
Lots of alumni have ideas for TFA.
There are lots of alumni who have their own suggestions for TFA’s continued improvement. That includes our board, staff members and readers. No organization is perfect and TFA has plenty of areas to improve and grow. There’s a big difference, however, between people who want to see the organization get better and those who, for their own reasons, just don’t think it should exist anymore.
I hope this helps people figure out who we are and why we are here. I'm happy to welcome any new people who believe in our mission, and I'm looking forward to continuing this discussion now and into the future.
This post was written by Derrell Bradford, NYCAN executive director. He writes from New York City.