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AmeriCorps Funding Is An Investment In New Jersey We Must Protect

The president’s proposed budget promises to devastate AmeriCorps funding. Here’s why that matters for you.
Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Service to our country is one of the most fundamental beliefs we hold as Americans, and that service can take many forms. Since 1994, AmeriCorps has developed thousands of leaders through national service—including 1,300 new educators reaching over 210,000 students in New Jersey. The president’s proposed budget zeroes out the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the agency that runs AmeriCorps, next year. If we eliminate AmeriCorps, the progress we’ve made to recruit, develop and support diverse leaders in schools and non-profits in New Jersey will be threatened. 

CNCS accounted for only.03 percent of the federal budget last fiscal year. This small investment is critical to expanding educational opportunities for students in need. In fact, research conducted by economists at Columbia University shows that for every federal dollar invested in national service, our country reaps nearly four times the return due to higher earnings, increased output and other community-wide benefits.  

Teach For America—New Jersey (TFA), Great Oaks Legacy Charter School and the Relay Graduate School of Education are three organizations utilizing AmeriCorps funding to inspire diverse and committed young leaders to pursue service and careers focused on creating opportunities for students and families in the Garden State.

Since 2011, the Great Oaks Legacy Charter School has recruited more than 300 college graduates to live in Newark and perform a year of service as full-time tutors. Those tutors have supported Great Oaks Legacy students to become one of the top schools in the state in academic growth, and now 100% of students in the first high school graduating class have been accepted into four-year colleges. The benefits of AmeriCorps extend beyond students: After their year of service, more than a third of these AmeriCorps members stayed in Newark working in schools and nonprofits throughout the city, boosting the local economy while continuing to impact students and families.

Meanwhile, Relay Graduate School of Education, a nationally accredited, nonprofit institution of higher education serving over 200 public school teachers in New Jersey, is preparing the next generation of educators with the help of AmeriCorps. Relay’s graduate schools are located in low-income urban centers like Newark and Camden, with more than half of their aspiring teachers utilizing AmeriCorps education awards to further their education and local impact. 

At the same time, Teach For America finds, develops, and supports a diverse network of leaders who work to expand opportunity for children in our schools and across sectors that shape education. Only 15% of applicants intended to go into education, but as a result of their experience 70% continue to work in education and 85% of TFA alumni work on behalf of low-income communities. In New Jersey, 100 TFA corps members teach across 50 schools in Newark, Passaic and Camden and 1,200 alumni—including over 400 teachers, 55 principals, and two superintendents—live and work across the state. In Camden specifically, past and present AmeriCorps members are currently educating 90% of school-aged children and the city recently saw its fourth year of rising graduation rates. AmeriCorps’ partnership with Teach For America has helped create this network of new leaders committed to expanding equity for children.

Our organizations know that providing an excellent education for all children requires the development of a new generation of leaders willing to devote their careers to reducing education inequity.  We’ve learned that students benefit academically from ethnically and culturally diverse teachers and lessons that relate to student’s life experiences and perspectives. AmeriCorps is critical in meeting these needs by helping to recruit diverse role models capable of helping students envision and realize success in their own lives.

More than half of Teach For America and Relay Graduate School educators are people of color, as compared to 18% of teachers nationally. Our organizations are able to build a diverse force of leaders and recruit a greater number of talented young professionals to pursue careers in education because of AmeriCorps benefits. Without AmeriCorps education awards, loan forbearance and interest repayments to help reduce the economic barriers associated with our work, these promising individuals may choose careers and callings elsewhere.

All this work is made possible through AmeriCorps. 

National service offers a low-cost, high-yield solution to provide services, expand opportunity, and develop the American workforce. It unites communities and our nation to help ensure a more prosperous future for us all. We’ve been sharing this message with members of Congress and encourage you to call your congressperson to protect AmeriCorps funding and to restore hope for a stronger America through service.

 

Tia Morris, Executive Director, Teach For America – New Jersey 
Jared Taillefer, Executive Director, Great Oaks Legacy Charter School – Newark, NJ 
Jamey Verrilli, Dean, Relay Graduate School of Education – Newark Campus