Legislators on the joint Government Operations and Audit Committee want Teach For America director James Curran of Minneapolis to meet with them May 14 to answer questions they have about TFA. Basically they’re looking for proof that it makes a difference. The panel’s chairman, Rep. Dan Dryden, R-Rapid City, sent to Curran a list of nine topics they want him to address.
1) How long has the program functioned in South Dakota schools?
2) How many folks/teachers have participated in the program since it started? (Average per year and 2012-2013 school year)
3) Which schools used the program? How many of the schools are funded by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs?
4) How many of the Teach For America participants stayed for more than two years? What is the average length of stay?
5) The letter states that students scores provided by the state Department of Education don’t reflect positive impact of the program. Curran is asked to provide the performance metrics and show what are the specific measureable goals to prove the program is working.
6) What is the total dollar amount of students loans that has been written off because of participation in South Dakota?
7) Curran is asked to provide specific data showing the program has improved student scores.
8) How does TFA compare to the program offered by Black Hills State University?
9) Curran is asked to provide “a total and detailed financial report covering the total life of the program in South Dakota” including private and public amounts.
In addition to Dryden, the committee members from the House are Democrat Susan Wismer of Britton and Republicans Justin Cronin of Gettysburg, Melissa Magstadt of Watertown and Mark Mickelson of Sioux Falls. The senators are Democrat Angie Buhl of Sioux Falls and Republicans Larry Tidemann of Brookings, Jean Hunhoff of Yankton, Corey Brown of Gettysburg and Phyllis Heineman of Sioux Falls. Tidemann is the vice chairman. Heineman has been the leading supporter of Teach For America in the Legislature. A $250,000 line item of funding for Teach For America was passed into law this year as part of HB 1137.
UPDATE: De Knudson reported that James Curran lives at Mission. The committee’s letter was sent to a Minneapolis address. Knudson said she and her husband, Dave, are hosting a fundraiser to benefit Teach For America with Scott and Susan Heidepriem on May 23 in Sioux Falls. Knudson and Heidepriem are former Republican and Democratic legislators who were candidates for governor in 2010. Each lost to Gov. Dennis Daugaard, Knudson in the Republican primary and Heidepriem in the general election.