The nation’s seventh-largest school district in Houston, Texas, has been plagued by the familiar problems of urban public education—including four out of every ten students failing to graduate from high school within six years of starting ninth grade. To blaze a path to better results, a group of local donors plus a few national philanthropists made a massive commitment in 2008 to create tens of thousands of school seats in new high-performing charter schools. Two of the most effective charter operators in the U.S.—KIPP and YES Prep—were born in Houston, and they agreed to add dozens of new campuses between them, with the intention not only of providing excellent education to tens of thousands of children themselves but also of modeling and inspiring improvements in Houston’s conventional public schools. Philanthropists backed this effort with more than $90 million of donations: $20 million from the Houston Endowment; $11 million from the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation; $10 million each from Jeff and Wendy Hines, John and Laura Arnold, and the Gates Foundation; $9 million from the Walton Family Foundation; $6 million from the Brown Foundation; $5 million from Don and Doris Fisher; $4 million from Jan and Dan Duncan. As of 2014, the Houston charter-school expansion was about half complete, with 22 KIPP schools open on their way to 42, and 13 YES Prep campuses in operation toward an eventual goal of 19. Already, one out of every five Houston schoolchildren attends a charter, with excellent results, and that ratio will increase as KIPP and YES create an additional 20,000 seats while other charter operators undertake their own expansions.
- Karl Zinsmeister, From Promising to Proven (The Philanthropy Roundtable, 2014) pp. 14-16.
- YES Prep Houston plan, socialimpactexchange.org/sites/www.socialimpactexchange.org/files/Yes%20Prep%20-%20Growth%20Plan.pdf