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By W. Gardner Selby December 3, 2015

Lawmakers decline to hike Teach for America spending

In his blueprint spelling out his campaign promises, Greg Abbott indicated he appreciates the Teach for America program that recruits high-achieving college graduates to teach in needy school districts for two years at a clip.

Then-candidate Abbott also noted that state aid to the program had escalated from $1.5 million ponied up by the state education commissioner in 2007 to $12 million appropriated by lawmakers for 2014-15, with a goal of placing at least 1,000 teachers in schools that serve a disproportionate share of economically disadvantaged students.

While discussions of expansion into new regions" in Texas "have temporarily been placed on hold," Abbott said, "by increasing appropriations to the Teach for America program, the state could augment the sustainability of the organization's operations in Texas. Specifically, additional financial support would allow the organization to strengthen its regional strategic plans," Abbott said.

His blueprint then called for $3 million in additional state spending over two years to boost the effort.

And did lawmakers run with Abbott's idea?

In February 2015, Abbott proposed the $3 million in additional aid. But the 2016-17 budget he later signed into law reflected the same level of spending as before.

By phone, Kaitlin Gastrock, a Boston-based Teach for America vice president, told us the group was glad to land the $12 million over two additional years given "all the tough budget decisions state leaders were making."

Gastrock noted, too, that previously, the state budget authorized aid to support at least 1,000 teachers while the 2016-17 budget declares that at least 1,800 teachers be working in the state.

The budget states: "It is the intent of the Legislature that at least 1,800 Teach for America public school employees be employed in Texas schools that serve a proportion of economically disadvantaged students above the state average by the end of fiscal year 2017. Funding shall be allocated in such a manner as to prioritize employment of Teach for America teachers in the field of mathematics to the extent practicable."

Gastrock told us the organization can deliver the teachers despite no increase in state aid thanks to private funding sources supporting the initiative in San Antonio, Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth and the Rio Grande Valley.

We asked the governor's office about this promise and didn't hear back.

We rate this previouisly unrated promise a Promise Broken.

Promise Broken – The promise has not been fulfilled. This could occur because of inaction by the executive or lack of support from the legislative branch or other group that was critical for the promise to be fulfilled. A Promise Broken rating does not necessarily mean that the executive failed to advocate for the policy.

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