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July 11, 2018

KIPP regional networks convert to one Texas charter school district

By Melissa B. Taboada

Picture of KIPP building
KIPP Austin is one of four regional charter school networks that is consolidating into a single Texas school district. (Ralph Barrera / American-Statesman)

KIPP Public Schools, individual district charter networks operating across Texas, are consolidating into a single statewide school district.

The four charter networks in Austin, Houston, Dallas and San Antonio asked the Texas Education Agency to close their individual charters so they could convert into one district charter, KIPP Texas Public Schools. The statewide organization will oversee all 52 KIPP charter campuses and 27,700 students in Texas. Of those, Austin educates 5,000 students in 10 campuses.

“We are really excited to join forces as KIPP Texas Public Schools,” said Chief Executive Officer Sehba Ali, who for the past six years served as superintendent of KIPP Houston. “We’re really going to leverage the talents and resources across all our 52 schools to offer more for children.”

About 20 of the 3,000 KIPP employees in Texas are losing their jobs because of the restructuring. About five of those are in Austin.

Under the reorganization, KIPP will receive one district rating under the state’s accountability system. Its schools will continue to receive individual ratings. Individual campuses will keep their names.

Plans include growing the student population. KIPP leaders could not yet provide projections for enrollment increases, but charter enrollment continues to boom in Austin and across the state. KIPP educates about one-fifth of the charter school students in the Austin area.

The regions will be able to leverage the power of the bigger organization, which comes with more resources, teacher training and curriculum specialists, said Steven Epstein, the Austin regional superintendent and former executive director of KIPP Austin.

“The benefits I see are around things that would drive better state performance,” Epstein said. “All of a sudden, we got real big. It’s exciting and it’s a little scary. We’re taking a leap of faith in being part of the larger group for the betterment of kids.”

The consolidation will allow the four regions to roll out new math and literacy curricula a year earlier than planned.

“It would be too large a lift for any region to do… but together we can lift this,” said Mark Larson, the chief growth officer and former chief executive officer for KIPP San Antonio.

KIPP got its start at a Houston elementary school in 1994. The charter moved into Austin in 2002, and new KIPP charters followed the next year in Dallas and San Antonio. The charter network primarily serves low-income Latino and black students.

Other charter networks, including Harmony Public Schools and Uplift Education, have taken similar steps in consolidating their charter networks into a district.