Is KIPP Expansion Good for Tulsa’s Children?

And is it the best use of Tulsa's limited education funds?

As Oklahoma’s teachers prepare to walk out to call attention to a long overdue pay increase, Tulsa is diluting limited education dollars by expanding the KIPP charter school franchise in north Tulsa. Do we have enough information about KIPP schools to trust our children’s education to them?

An article by Lisa Graves and Dustin Beilke, “Exposed by CMD: KIPP’s Efforts to Keep the Public in the Dark while Seeking Millions in Taxpayer Subsidies,” asserts that KIPP redacted huge swaths of information provided to the U.S. Department of Education, information that regular public schools must report.

For example, the writers found that KIPP “insisted that the U.S. Department of Education keep secret from the public the statistics about the percentage of its eighth graders who completed high school, entered college, and/or who completed a two-year or four-year degree. Citing a national study done by Gary Miron, professor of evaluation, measurement and research at Western Michigan University, and reported in Ed Week, “KIPP charter middle schools enroll a significantly higher proportion of African-American students than the local school districts they draw from but 40 percent of the black males they enroll leave between grades 6 and 8.”

Forty percent attrition by black males in middle school is not success. Where do those children go? They are probably not completing high school and certainly not going to college.

Unlike public schools, KIPP has a large advertising/promotion budget and, interestingly, paid $1.2 million to Mathematica (see bullet point below) for data analysis, the same firm that “was used to try to rebut concerns about KIPP’s performance and attrition rates.” In other words, KIPP is gathering and promoting its own data, which it paid over $1 million to create. Can we trust the fox watching the hen house?

The article includes the following “key details from KIPP’s 2013 tax filings:

  • KIPP received more than $18 million in grants from American tax dollars and more than $43 million from other sources, primarily other foundations;
  • KIPP spent nearly $14 million on compensation, including more than $1.2 million on nine executives who received six-figure salaries, and nearly $2 million more on retirement and other benefits;
  • KIPP also spent over $416,000 on advertising and a whopping $4.8 million on travel; it paid more than $1.2 to the Walt Disney World Swan and Resort;
  • It also paid $1.2 million to Mathematica for its data analysis; that's the firm that was used to try to rebut concerns about KIPP's performance and attrition rates.

KIPP's revenue and spending in 2014 were similar, but there are some additional interesting details (uploaded below):

  • KIPP received more than $21 million in grants from American tax dollars and more than $38 million from other sources, primarily other foundations;
  • KIPP spent nearly $18 million on compensation and nearly $2 million more on retirement and other benefits;
  • KIPP paid its co-founder, David Levin, more than $450,000 in total compensation, and its CEO, Richard Barth, more than $425,000 in total compensation, in addition to six-figure salaries for eight other executives;
  • KIPP also spent over $467,000 on advertising and more than $5 million on travel;
  • It also paid nearly $1 million to Mathematica for its data analysis.”

Apparently, KIPP is paying some hefty executive salaries, and someone is taking some nice trips to Disney World. I would guess it’s not the teachers.

This week, The California State Board of Education voted to expand KIPP in San Francisco and San Jose, but not without controversy. KIPP was allowed to bypass California’s basic conflict of interest law. A letter from Dr. Roxana Marachi, education chair of the San Jose/Silicon Valley NAACP, Rev. Jethroe Moore ll, president of the San Jose/Silicon Valley NAACP and Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig, state education chair, California NAACP, outlined their concerns about expanding the KIPP franchise. Concerns included (with links): 1) NAACP Calls For a Moratorium on Charter School Expansion 2) Racism, School Closures, and Public School Sabotage: Voices from America’s Affected Communities of Color; 3) Report: Spending Blind: The Failure of Policy Planning in California’s Charter School Facility Funding (This report questions KIPP’s actions surrounding students with disabilities and non-English language speakers); 4) KIPP’s Efforts to Hide Data While Seeking Millions in Taxpayer Subsidies; and 5) How Privatization Increases Inequality//In The Public Interest 

The Tulsa School Board approved the expansion of KIPP through high school, but is this the best use of limited funds and limited energy from those invested in improving public schools for ALL children? It’s a question we should be asking.

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Living the empty nest life, and loving it.

About This Blog

Betty Casey has been editor of TulsaKids for over 20 years – her youngest child was 3-years-old when she started working for the magazine. She and her husband Wes have three young adult children. Betty’s blog ranges from writing about current issues or information of interest to local parents, reflecting on her life without kids at home, and posting a few recipes now and then. (Cooking and running are two or her favorite past-times.) Betty is the author/illustrator of three children’s books, "May Finds Her Way," "That is a Hat" and "The Prince of the Prairie" (The RoadRunner Press). She was named Blogger of the Year in 2014 by The Great Plains Journalism Awards, was a finalist in 2015 and won again in 2016. Most recently, she was named the 2017 News Blogger of the Year. She has also won numerous writing awards from the Parenting Media Association.

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