Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Lots of Money != Knowledge of Education

Your savior is a high-school dropout
funded by a bunch of companies
wanting to make a buck or billion.
Makes you feel good, doesn't it?.
Rick Hess:
Andre Agassi, the former tennis champ and high school dropout, and Canyon Capital Realty Advisors, recently announced the creation of a real estate fund that will spend $500 million to capitalize on and promote the movement for U.S. charter schools. The Canyon-Agassi Charter School Facilities Fund plans to develop more than 75 urban campuses with space for about 40,000 students over three to four years, according to a statement from Canyon Capital and Agassi Ventures LLC. The partners already have drawn investments from Citigroup, Intel, and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
So we have Agassi's money being dumped into charters. Impressive on first glance, but you have to wonder at the motives. Real estate companies don't usually give away things for free. Read a little closer and you find that the beneficiaries begin with KIPP, showing once again that KIPP can't operate like any public or private school in that it needs to have "a state‐of‐the‐art facility at an affordable lease rate." So he'll get his money back and he'll be happy to "help charter school operators obtain permanent financing to purchase their properties using New Market Tax Credits, tax‐exempt bond offerings or funding from the U.S. Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund." Gotta love the sanctimonious charters playing high and holy, "We don't siphon off the public like those evil public schools do."

So Agassi's in it for the money, not altruism. Fair enough. KIPP gets cheap, brand-new buildings. Okay. At least they're not parasites on the public school system, taking half a current school building for nothing.

But then I laughed.

I had the opportunity to meet Agassi a few months back in Vegas and was terrifically impressed. I found him smart, thoughtful, humble, and interested in listening; in truth, I found him a whole lot more impressive than any number of education officials, experts, consultants, and professors that I've encountered. Having a smart, wildly successful, internationally regarded tennis champ pouring his passion into launching great schools would seem a terrific thing--and a uniquely American way to tap our strengths and resources.
Impressive is good.  Andre is a great player, married to a great player. Has he ever taught anyone other than his own kid?  Most experts have never been in a classroom.  That's why they have the time to talk to Rick.

Anyway, Let's play Mad Libs ... "Having a smart, wildly successful, internationally regarded ___________ pouring his passion into launching great schools ...."
  • would "real estate agent" fit? 
  • "high school dropout" ?
  • "carpet-bagger" ?
  • "profiteer" ?
  • "porno actor" (pouring his passion into education ... Sorry, couldn't help it.)  
  •  I know! I know! I've got it ... "internationally regarded software company founder" !

Here we go again, me repeating myself. Just because you made a lot of money doesn't mean you know what's good for education. Especially if, like Agassi and Gates, you never completed your own.

Just sayin'.

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