A blog post from Louisiana gets me thinking about Teach for America and its success in winning funds from the stingy South Dakota Legislature.
As it did last year, the South Dakota Legislature appropriated $250,000 (via HB 1137) to help Teach for America bring low-wage rookie teachers to South Dakota. I seek to cast no aspersions on those who dedicate two years of their lives to serving students in South Dakota school districts that have a hard time recruiting teachers. But Teach for America is one more way our Legislature manages to get by on the cheap instead of paying full value for education.
I am surprised to learn, however, that Teach for America has pretty substantial financial assets. Its 2010 IRS Form 990 (the most recent one I can snag online) reports $373 million in assets. $39 million of that is buildings, equipment, and other property; much of the rest is cash, investments, and pledges and grants receivable. Take away $22 million in liabilities, and you get $312 million in chits Teach for America could call out of reserves pretty quickly for a rainy day.
Teach for America's total expenses in 2010 were $219 million. That $312 million of reasonably available reserves is 142% of annual expenses.
Our Legislatures and Governors have grumbled hard about local school districts maintaining what their Republican sensibilities deem excessive reserves... and by excessive, they used to mean more than the 25% of annual expenditures that they forced schools by law to spend their reserves down to by 2012. Apparently, there's a bit of wiggle room: according to the state Department of Education, at the end of 2012, South Dakota's K-12 school districts held collective general fund reserves of $210 million, a touch over 26% of their $805 million in general fund expenditures.
The Legislature cudgels K-12 budgets for years over reserves that wouldn't get most districts through a school year. But it continues to hand money to Teach for America, which has enough assets stockpiled to get it through a full school year and to the Christmas Party after that unassisted.
I'm sure there's a logical explanation. Historians, accountants, legislators, straighten me out.