A Historic Gift in Southern California Gives Teachers a Much-Needed Boost

A 2015 report from the Department of Education noted that there's a teacher shortage across the United States. This isn't news. There's been a widespread teacher shortage for some time now. 

But what's most alarming about the study is why there is an alarming shortage. The reason, to quote the Washington Post, is that public school teachers today are "more disillusioned about their jobs than they have been in many years." And in an era of high-pressure standardized testing, this disillusionment shows no signs of abating.

Which brings us to news out of La Verne, CA, where the University of La Verne announced it received a historic $10 million gift from Anthony "Tony" LaFetra at the May 27 meeting of the Board of Trustees to establish the LaFetra College of Education.

The gift is a kind of (lucrative) vote of confidence for a profession that could use one. The money will fund several new initiatives, including:

  • Faculty training on cultural competence and technology
  • Enhancement of the LaFetra Family Endowed Chair for Excellence in Teaching and Service to attract a nationally-recognized leader in teacher education for the position
  • An Intercultural and Multicultural Education Center for leadership, research, global learning, and exchange programs

The gift will add the University of La Verne to a very small list of named colleges of education, and one of the few at a federally designated Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI).

The University has a population of Latino students that exceeds 40 percent, and the demographics of the institution’s undergraduate, master, law and doctoral students reflect the diversity of Southern California. (In somewhat related news, check out this $3 million gift to the University of Michigan to establish the campus' new multicultural center.)

The gift will help students as well by providing:

  • Learning centers to support autistic and other special-needs children, as well as their families
  • Scholarships for high-achieving undergraduate students with financial need, enabling students to stay in school and graduate in a shorter time
  • A counseling and bilingual education initiative focused on children and families of migrant workers.

Which brings us to the donor, Anthony LaFetra. LaFetra is a member of the university’s Board of Trustees, and President and CEO of his family-founded business, The Rain Bird Corporation. The family has multigenerational ties to the University of La Verne, where his mother served on the Board of Trustees from 1966 to 1982, and his sister, Sarah Ludwick, is an alumna.

"I know that education transforms lives. My parents, Clem and Mary Elizabeth 'Betty' LaFetra, believed strongly in the power of education and in the University of La Verne. My mother served on its Board of Trustees for 16 years," LaFetra said.

"They imparted their passion for education to me, so I dedicate my gift to their legacy of giving, knowing we can impact generations of future teachers and students."