Teach For America founder Wendy Kopp insists education will be the long-term solution to dealing with economic downturn.
Question: How is the recession affecting education?Wendy Kopp: I would say, this recession, as many challenges as it does present, presents an incredible opportunity for education and education reform.
As a small microcosm of that, Teach For America’s applications are up well over 50% what they were last year , and this will be the first year  in our history where recruitment has not been the constraint on our growth. We could place many more people than we could ever even muster the organizational capacity to place at this juncture.
And the reason I say that’s an opportunity, I think anyone in education reform would say that talent and leadership is--it’s the constraint and it is the enabler. Where we see transformational change for kids happening, it’s in the hands of incredible teachers, incredible school leaders, etc.
I hope our country, and we’re doing everything we can to make this the case, realizes that as many challenges as we have in this environment, we do have this incredible opportunity to channel just unprecedented talent and energy against what I really believe is our country’s greatest injustice; and honestly, if we’re worried about the long term economic competitiveness of our country and all, the first thing we should do is focus on education.
I really believe this is a time of enormous opportunity. There are certainly enormous challenges.
Districts are already grappling with huge budget cuts. There are many challenges to navigate. But I think we need to, hopefully, as a country, we’re keep our eye on the incredible opportunities we have .
As with everything, we’ll have to prioritize where we invest; and I think this is the time to invest in education.
Recorded Dec 18, 2008.