Selected readings on US charter schools
In a redeveloped Mervyns’ department store along Camp Wisdom Road, representatives from the Canyon-Agassi Charter School Facilities Fund joined leaders of the Knowledge Is Power Program on Wednesday to celebrate the opening of a new public charter school in South Dallas.
KIPP Destiny Elementary is Canyon-Agassi’s first investment in Dallas-Fort Worth and its first with KIPP DFW, a charter school network that provides college-preparatory education for students from underserved backgrounds, Canyon-Agassi CEO Bobby Turner told me in an interview.
“This is the first of what we hope to be many schools in D-FW and in Texas,” Turner said.
The school secured its new home through a partnership with Canyon-Agassi, a Los Angeles based investment fund that provides capital to charter school operators, enabling them to acquire school facilities.
Canyon-Agassi acquired and developed the 6.1-acre site earlier this year, converting it into a 40,000-square-foot, modern facility with 12 classrooms, a science lab, administrative offices and a large multipurpose room.
KIPP Destiny Elementary opened this fall with 190 pre-K and kindergarten students. A new 37,000-square-foot middle school will be built on the site in 2015.
“Charter schools don’t get financial aid from the state for facilities,” Turner said. “Therein lies the greatest challenge faced by the charter school industry.”
Andre Agassi — yes tennis fans, that one — and Turner have raised $500 million they’re using to build charter schools across the country. The fund was was created in 2011 as a joint venture between Canyon Capital Realty Advisors and Agassi Ventures. They have opened 23 schools nationwide and have 27 more under construction, Turner said.
KIPP Dallas-Fort Worth was founded in 2003 with the opening of KIPP TRUTH Academy, a middle school in South Dallas. Part of the Knowledge Is Power Program network of 141 public charter schools serving 50,000 students nationwide, KIPP Destiny is the first KIPP elementary school to open in Dallas. KIPP DFW plans to open eight more schools serving 5,000 students in the Dallas area by 2022.
Canyon-Agassi has the backing of institutional investors who share its commitment to positive societal change while pursuing fair financial returns, Turner said. The fund provides quality facilities at affordable lease rates and lets charter school operators buy their schools once they fill with students.
“The fund is a for-profit fund that recognizes that making money and changing society need not be exclusive,” Turner told me. “We have a purpose, but if we don’t return a fair profit to our investor, we won’t be able to raise more money and therefor we won’t be able to build more schools in the future.”
In addition to Dallas, the fund has its eye on Houston and Austin, Turner said.
Source: Dallas Business Journal – by Bill Hethcock