At KIPP, we believe in having a free and open debate about public charter schools. But when the facts are misrepresented, it’s important to set the record straight.
This week, the San Antonio Express-News ran an op-ed by UT Austin professor Julian Vasquez Heilig, which included some misleading claims about KIPP charter schools. These claims are entirely based on an outdated and discredited report. As one of the co-founders of KIPP, and a 22-year veteran of public education in Texas, I want to clarify the facts.
First, the attrition data Dr. Heilig cites is inaccurate and heavily biased. According to the New York Times, the Western Michigan University researchers “use[d] questionable data sources and analytic techniques to push a position that is antagonistic to KIPP.” A 2013 report by Mathematica Policy Research found that KIPP’s overall student attrition is not higher or lower than that of neighboring district schools, and that KIPP’s results could not be explained by attrition. In fact, Mathematica found that KIPP middle school students made significant learning gains in all grades and subjects, even when factors like attrition and parental motivation were taken into account.
Second, the claim that KIPP spends $5,600 more per student is simply untrue. The WMU researchers arrived at this number by cherry-picking financial data from only a handful of KIPP schools. They also didn’t account for the money KIPP spends on securing and renovating school buildings, since—like all charter schools—KIPP schools receive little or no public funding for facilities. When fully grown, KIPP schools have about the same per-pupil spending as neighboring district schools.