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Monday, June 11, 2018

Where KIPP may be mediocre at educating , it is great at getting extra money out of tax payers.

In 2010 Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited a brand new charter school on the Northside of Jacksonville, The Knowledge is Power Program or KIPP school. Of all theschools he could have visited and back then Stanton Prep and the Paxon school for advanced studies were annually considered some of the best in the nation, he chose to visit a small charter school. Did I mention he brought a 500 thousand dollar grant with him? This as schools in Jacksonville were surplussing teachers, growing classes and cutting, the arts and libraries left and right. It was insulting to say the least, I didn’t know then but I needed to get used to that feeling.
The KIPP school was brought to Jacksonville by local businessman Gary Chratrand who spent nine millions to bring it here and it was placed in the old north side dog track, which was donated to a foundation that supports the KIPP school.
The converted schools first class was 88 students.
KIPP is known for a few things, some they are quite proud of and some they would probably rather you not know. Their school day is longer, kids are required to attend Saturday school and music classes as well. KIPP’s teachers are required to be more accessible to their students than regular public school teachers, and they secure commitments ofinvolvement from the parents of their students as well. Those are some of the good things.  Some of the bad things are they experience an incredibly high rate of teacher turnover and their academic performance which has been lackluster despite the above mentioned advantages to say the least.
That first class I mentioned above received the lowest grade in all of northeast Florida. The next year they went to a miraculous B but in their third year they fell to a grade protected C. Back then the state had just initiated a rule which they have since discontinued which said school letter grades could only fall one grade at the time. Did I mention that KIPP benefactor Gary Chartrand had parlayed substantial donations to a position as chair of the state board of education which helped craft that rule?
That wasn’t the only time KIPP has been allowed to manipulate it’s grade.
Last year the school board allowed KIPP Voice, a kindergarten through fourth-grade school, that shares the same building with KIPP Impact, a middle school, to take the highest state grade of the two for its joint report card. If they wouldn’t have done so Impact would have received a C, while voice a D but instead it was graded as one school and given a C. Furthermore, as far as I can tell they weren’t required to return the six-figure new charter grant they had received just two years’ before when they expanded. And if you are wondering why KIPP had at one time three different schools on one property, I will get to that in a bit.
School board members who at one time or another received money from Gary Chartrand and allowed that to happen, Becki Couch, Cheryl Grymes, Warren Jones, Ashley Smith-Juarez and Scott Shine.
Even Floirda’s education commisioner Pam Stewart has felt the need to question their reputation which often outshines their perfrmance.  
From Politico: State education Commissioner Pam Stewart, in a sardonic text exchange with a colleague, accused a prominent GOP donor who chairs a Jacksonville charter school chain of using misleading data to boast about students’ test scores, according to public records obtained by POLITICO Florida.
Stewart said in a text message to a top staff member that the leaders of KIPP Jacksonville overstated the percentage of third graders who passed state reading exams. 

In the May 19 conversation, Stewart was critical of Gary Chartrand, a member and former chair of the state Board of Education who also heads the governing panel for KIPP's three Florida charter schools. Chartrand, executive chairman of Acosta Inc., a Jacksonville sales and marketing firm, is a reliable campaign donor to Republicans, including Gov. Rick Scott. 

In the texts, Stewart suggested Chartrand and the network’s executive director, Tom Majdanics, had been bragging that 41 percent of third graders at KIPP VOICE Elementary School passed this year’s reading tests, when the figure was actually 35 percent.
No educationg children, as their grade has been up and down more often than a yo yo, is not what they do best, but what they are phenomenal at is securing extra tax payer dollars from the city and state.   
This year state representative Jason Fischer secured two million extra dollars for the KIPP school, in the budget signed by Rick Scott.
This is a little strange because last year Rick Scott used his line item veto power to veto 500 thousand dollars to the KIPP school. Now Scott has routinely signed state budgets that gave the KIPP school extra money, he after Jason Fischer filed a bill to do so that gave them, 1,244,000 dollars the year before, so it was unusual that he picked last year to draw a line in the sand and then restate the largess this year?
Well it may have had to do with the Jacksonville Children’s Commission, now known as the Kids Hope Alliance and controlled by Jacksonville mayor Lenny Curry, changing their rules last year and awarding the KIPP school a grant for 752,796 dollars to pay for their longer school day. Up until then The JCC had never worked directly with a school or paid for a longer day.      
If you are following at home that is four million in extra dollars in just the last three years but sadly I am just getting started.
Oh, and what do Rick Scott, Lenny Curry and Jason Fischer have in common? Gary Chartrand has given all of them or their pacs a considerable amount of money.
Continuing, in 2015 the KIPP school received 1.6 million dollars in the form of a cooperation grant from the state so the district could learn from and emulate the KIPP school. Since the KIPP impact school’s grades had been up to that point, F, B, D*, B, and D I am not sure what the district was supposed to learn but the money was allocated anyway.
They also received 900 thousand extra in 2014 and that’s as far back as I went, though I have no doubt I would have found other large sums of public money earmarked to KIPP had I done so.
Some of you might one wondering why one campus needs three schools and if you guessed that had to do with money then you wouldn’t be wrong. First there is the aforementioned new charter school grants, but it may also have to do with money given to board members and the district itself.     
In 2012, despite experienced great growing pains it was allowed to expand by the Duval County School Board and did I mention back then they didn’t use text books?
Members on the school board that had received money from Chartrand in or before 2012 and allowed it to happen, Hazouri, Gentry, Barret and Couch
In 2014 KIPP had which had expanded to 660 students just two years before was looking to expand again and this time to a little over 1,800 students. Such a big jump was unprecedented and perhaps not even warranted considering their mediocre performance. The discussion became mute however after Gary Chartrand stepped forward with what was called the Quality Education for all Initiative which at one time promised 50 million over five years to DCPS. It ended up delivering just 38 million and much of that never saw the inside of the classroom. At least 5 million was diverted to Teach for America Jacksonville, which has also provided numerous teachers to the KIPP school.  
Did Gary Chartrand of the State Board of Education, buy the KIPP expansion with the QEA initiative and all his school board donations? I can’t say for sure just like I can’t say for sure if his tens of thousand in donations to Fischer, Scott and Curry resulted in millions extra for the KIPP school and just like I can’t say for sure his position as chair of the state board of education brought the KIPP school a 1.6 million dollar cooperation grant or protected its grade from falling but unless you believe in coincidence after coincidence after coincidence, it sure seems like it. 
Are there good things going on at KIPP? I bet you would find plenty of parents and students who would emphatically say yes but at then end of the day despite extraordinary advantages they have a mediocre record and what they are truly good at is securing extra funding. You will have to make up your mind for yourself whether they deserve it and secured it ethically.  
Finally, remember that first class of 88, well only 64 made it through eighth grade and of them only 48 bothered to return to a graduation ceremony that KIPP had for them, that’s just a little over half. I think perhaps that more than anything else speaks volumes.

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