"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

KIPP Houston Forces Parents to Pay $2.3 Million in Unallowable Fees

While the KIPP Foundation has hundreds of millions of dollars in banks and investments, KIPP's individual schools are forced to send the Foundation $30,000 per year for using the KIPP name.  

Where does the fee collecting stop?  With the parents of disadvantaged children, who are forced to pay thousands of dollars in fees that are illegally collected?

Did the State of Texas sanction KIPP?  Of course not.

Did KIPP agree to repay the parents?  That's not part of their social justice mission.

From the Houston Chronicle:
Mary Courtney was one of KIPP Houston's biggest advocates, even as she had to borrow money from relatives to keep up with payments to the charter school.

She drove to Austin during School Choice Week, talking to lawmakers about why they should better fund charter schools. She volunteered on campus. She paid thousands in fees so her boys and other students could have access to books and science materials.

But that was before she realized the fees she was paying were optional, something never mentioned by teachers or principals or on the fee agreement forms that the schools - KIPP Liberation College Prep and KIPP PEACE Elementary - tied to student registration. Now, Courtney and several other KIPP Houston parents are furious because they believe they were duped by the charter nonprofit system into paying for what they believe should be a free public education.

"At no time if I thought the fees were optional would I have paid for them, especially when I'm struggling to put food on the table or clothes on my children's backs," Courtney said. "It's a lot to ask of a single parent, and it's wrong for them to allocate fees from parents, especially knowing the demographic area where a majority of their school campuses are."

A Texas Education Agency investigation last year, a copy of which was obtained by the Houston Chronicle, found KIPP Houston schools violated the Texas Education Code by collecting millions of dollars a year in unallowable student fees. Its mostly low-income and minority families paid hundreds of dollars per student each year for things such as reading materials, classroom supplies and parent associations.

TEA investigators in January appointed a monitor to keep watch on the school system's operations but did not sanction the operator.

KIPP Houston leaders say they're glad that parents brought issues regarding fees to the their and the TEA's attention.

Eric Kot, chief of operations and information technology services with KIPP Houston, said some - but not all - of KIPP's 28 local campuses incorrectly told parents that the fees were mandatory or failed to explain they were optional. But since then, KIPP's Houston-area schools have created uniform forms across its campuses that show the fees are optional and have worked with the TEA to ensure they are complying with state rules regarding student fees. . . .

. . . . Asked if KIPP Houston would provide refunds to parents upset over paying what they thought were mandatory fees, Kot said such payments were "not on the table" at the district's executive level. . . .

 . . . .In Houston, the nonprofit charter school system collected about $2.3 million in student fees during the 2015-2016 school year, Kot said, which averages out to about $168 per student.
While charter and public schools are allowed to charge optional fees for things such as athletics, clubs, extracurricular activities and uniforms, the Texas Education Code prevents them from charging students or families for use of lockers or for any instructional materials, laboratory supplies or library materials.

Over the past five years, only four charter schools or companies in Texas have been investigated for charging unallowable student fees, according to the TEA. In addition to KIPP Houston, they are the Fort Worth Academy for Fine Arts, Basis San Antonio and the Houston Gateway Academy.

TEA spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said that while the agency reviews what's legal and what is not when it offers training to charter schools before they first open, the agency has not sent out specific guidance on fees in recent years. Mary Dawson, who has a 10-year-old son in the fifth grade at KIPP Liberation College Prep, said she was still upset after the fees dropped from $325 per student annually to about $170. She had hoped the fees would pay for things that many of KIPP's low-income students may lack at home, such as a laptop loaner program similar to Houston ISD's. But when she realized the schools received sizable donations from local donors and an annual gala, and through state and federal grants, Dawson questioned why parents were still being asked to pay.

"Why are you charging fees in the first place? If you're KIPP, you're serving a predominately lower social-economic community - a majority of students are at-risk. Why would you charge these parents a fee when the majority of these parents have three kids or more?" Dawson said.

Kot said teaching underserved students is KIPP's mission, and that schools have worked with parents to make fees less burdensome - waiving them for some families and allowing others to use a payment plan. He said the fees help defray the costs of trips to college campuses, end-of-year field trips, tutoring and other enrichment opportunities.


  1. Anonymous3:22 PM

    Choice has consequences and parents vote with their feet. My well of sympathy is dessicated.

    Abigail Shure

  2. We are not looking for sympathy. We are demanding for accountability!