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The Teat: Be a little more honest KIPP Charter Schools

Today I will profile Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) schools on The Teat. The Teat is an ongoing series on Cloaking Inequity (the protuberance through which milk is drawn from an udder or breast) that seeks to trace financial support which various entities receive that are involved in current educational policy debates.

The Teat Cow Haiku for today:

Every cow comes wrapped
in cowhide, but that does not
serve to hide the cow.

Cloaking Inequity exists because of KIPP. (For the full thread on KIPP go here) They released a response to a research study that focused on African American enrollment and leavers that was so erroneous that I had to respond publicly— CI was born.

I wrote at the time:

In April of 2012, KIPP responded to a press release for Is choice a panacea? An analysis of black secondary student attrition from KIPP, other private charters and urban districts, a peer-reviewed paper published in the Berkeley Review of Education (BRE) about African American secondary student attrition from charter schools across the state of Texas. KIPP began their response by criticizing the research on four main points. I will address those points.


One of the issues that KIPP raised was that they disagreed with the revenue that we discussed in our peer-reviewed academic paper. KIPP was just flat out dishonest in saying that they don’t spend more than traditional public schools. That information is available in the internet by double clicking on the numbers below. Texas state law requires that they report their revenues. Here is their charge and my response:

  •  Vasquez Heilig makes the inaccurate claim that KIPP receives $3,361 more in total revenue than the Houston Independent School District, and incorrectly infers that KIPP Houston spends more per pupil than the district. In reality, KIPP Houston, like all public charter schools in Texas, receive less per pupil funding than district schools and no public revenue for facilities. Excluding private funds raised to cover facilities costs, KIPP Houston spends less per student per year than HISD.

KIPP is incorrect. NEPC also thinks so here. Its hard to argue with publicly available data that they themselves are required to report by law. Per student revenue for KIPP Austin ($17,286)and KIPP Houston ($13,488) relative to Austin ISD ($10,667) and Houston ISD ($10,127) is readily available online each year from the State of Texas. However, considering the current school finance debacle in Texas, where approaching $6 billion was cut from education in the last legislature, in retrospect, I think KIPP should be applauded for spending more on education…

The Teat will examine today where KIPP gets all that extra money. Thanks to Sylvia from Austin who pulled the KIPP development data from the Foundation Center in New York and forwarded it.  In sum, across the nation, since 2003, KIPP has received $308,999,543 from foundations, corporations and individuals. You can see the national spreadsheet here. KIPP in Texas has acquired about 25% of those monies— $75,981,765 from foundations, corporations and individuals. You can see the Texas spreadsheet here.

I don’t know Mike Feinberg personally. However, in the forums in which I have observed him, I find him to be eloquent and dedicated to children. I believe KIPP campuses have some redeeming qualities, I especially respect their focus on a college readiness (KIPP Houston came in 5th in the state for college readiness amongst Latina/o majority schools in my analysis— Note only 8 of 64 were charters). However, as the attrition numbers for African Americans reported in our KIPP study in the Berkeley Review of Education showed (which may explain their lofty college readiness numbers), and their less than forthright responses to our article and others where KIPP posits incorrect claims about revenue, KIPP just needs to be a little more honest about their operation.

About Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig (706 Articles)
Julian Vasquez Heilig is an award-winning researcher and teacher. He is currently a Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and the Director of the Doctorate in Educational Leadership at California State Sacramento.

1 Comment on The Teat: Be a little more honest KIPP Charter Schools

  1. Hi Dr. Heilig; in their words which you quoted, KIPP says they have less spending per pupil, but they frame it this way: “Excluding private funds raised to cover facilities costs, KIPP Houston spends less per student per year than HISD.”

    You go on to talk about their private donations, but these were “excluded” in KIPP’s comparison to public schools.

    This means that they may not actually be arguing against your data, but against your comparison (what you choose to count) with public schools.

    Are public schools’ bond monies incorporated into their per-pupil spending count? Since that money must be spent on capital projects that ultimately serve students, this would be fair.

    Either way, it does not invalidate your analysis on how the sources of private contributions may influence the philosophy of education. However, do you think KIPP and other public charters would prefer to fire their development staff and be given facilities funding at parity with public schools? Would that solve the “conflict of philosophical interest” problem?

    Furthermore, if you believe they should not be given funding parity for facilities, do they deserve some credit for raising money beyond what the public offers?

    By comparison, a public school could hire a director of development and raise money directly through grants and private donations — what stops them? Are there public schools that follow this model?

    Also, does your criticism of private sources of funding (the proverbial “teat”) extend to public schools that raise money from Coca-Cola in exchange for placing obesity- and diabetes- causing drinks (and snacks from snack vendors) in schools?

    Just some thoughts …

    Thank you!


8 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Heilig to KIPP: Just Tell the Truth « Diane Ravitch's blog
  2. The Teat returns: Neoliberals, students first or padding adult’s pockets | Cloaking Inequity
  3. Top Ten List: Why “choice” demonstrates that money matters | Cloaking Inequity
  4. KIPP’s Take from Private Sources Since 2003: $308,999,543.00 – @ THE CHALK FACE knows SCHOOLS MATTER
  5. Frank Convo with KIPP’s Mike Feinberg: Do you call BS? | Cloaking Inequity
  6. Naughty List?: Thoughts on Texas Legislature, KIPP, Carstarphen, and College | Cloaking Inequity
  7. Review of Journeys: Are @KIPP charter schools Pathological? | Cloaking Inequity
  8. Breaking News: @TeachForAmerica and @KIPP stole ideas and curriculum? – Cloaking Inequity

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