Here is the summary of Texans Can, Inc.'s amazing success, from the Houston Chronicle (January 25, 2010)
• Number of campuses: 10
• Number of “unacceptable” schools: 9
• Total enrollment: 4,380
• Revenue from state funding: $32 million
• Revenue from car donations: $8 million
• Advertising budget: $2.5 million
• Combined salary of top six executives in 2008: $880,000
Source: Texas Education Agency, Texans Can Academy
Texans Can's partners in corruption: Collabrian, Wal-Mart, Park Cities Bank, Trinity Floor Covering, and Kimberly-Clark. Another item that deserves to go in the bullets above: Texan Can, Inc. teachers make on average $10,000 per year less than public school teachers in Texas.
From the Houston Chronicle:
Former Dallas Cowboys and local celebrities take to the airwaves each year imploring Texans to donate their used vehicles to Texans Can, a charter school system that caters to dropouts, recovering drug users and teenage parents.
“Write off the car, not the kid,” urges the campaign, which generates about $8 million in annual revenuefor its 10 campuses in Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Fort Worth.
While tugging at donors' heartstrings with success stories, the 4,400-student system is strapped with its own problems: declining enrollment, dismal academic results and a history of top-heavy spending.
Three of its schools — including the Houston Main Street campus — are on the verge of being closed for repeatedly failing to meet minimal federal standards, and the former celebrity spokesman for the Dallas campuses has turned his back on the nonprofit, advising would-be donors to find other charities to support.
“The mission is good. The purpose is good. They just lost their way,” said Dale Hansen, a longtime sportscaster in Dallas who raised millions as the face of Dallas Can over 15 years.
Its top six executives earned a combined $880,000 in 2008, with founder Grant East topping the list with a salary of $236,000 as president emeritus, according to tax documents for that fiscal year. Grant has since retired, and is now drawing $50,000 a year, officials said. Current president Richard Marquez earns more than $190,000 a year. . . .
. . . .Teachers at the Main Street campus earned an average salary of $41,778 in 2009, about $10,000 less than the typical Houston ISD teacher.
Texans Can also spends $2.5 million a year on advertising, primarily to attract vehicle donations. Retired Dallas Cowboys who have appeared in TV commercials include defensive lineman Tony Casillas and backup quarterback Babe Laufenberg. . . . .
. . . .
“They've done a great disservice to the general public,” said Robert Sanborn, president of Children at Risk, a Houston advocacy group. “They're basically preying on the good intentions of Houstonians.”
Several other charter schools and traditional public schools that serve at-risk students produce better results — casting doubt on whether Texans Can is a good use of tax dollars, he said.
“People do want to support public education, but unfortunately this has become the wrong way to do it,” Sanborn said. “There's no way to maneuver the statistics around to say they've been a success.”
The schools were the brainchild of East, who served three years in prison for bank robbery in the 1960s. After time in the oil and computer industries, East established a nonprofit in 1976 to educate adult and juvenile prisoners in the Dallas area.
In 1985, he opened the first Can academy. Ten years later, he earned one of the state's first charters to operate it as a public, tax-funded school. The Can system has since enrolled 62,000 students and produced 9,800 graduates.
9 of 10 ‘unacceptable'
Now, nine of the 10 schools in the system are rated “academically unacceptable”by the Texas Education Agency. The Main Street campus failed to meet standards so frequently that law required the school to be restructured with a new principal and several new teachers last year.
Only 18 percent of students there passed the math portion of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills in 2009. A TEA adviser clocked about 120 hours on the campus last year, and state officials are also advising district leaders on how to improve. . . .