The Knowledge Is Power Progam (KIPP), one the largest chain of charter schools in the U.S., celebrates its 20th anniversary. The program has grown from having campuses only in Houston and New York City to running 150 schools in 20 states and the District of Columbia. The enrollment is around 50, 000 students, and many believe the charter schools are outperforming traditional public schools, according to Inside Philanthropy.
KIPP and other charter schools rely heavily on donations. KIPP founders, Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin joined forces with Doris and Donald Fisher, who donated $15 million to the program to expand facilities and for teacher training. The Doris and Donald Fisher Fund has provided more than $60 million during the time KIPP has been in operation. Doris Fisher is a member of the board of directors. It is estimated that half of the Fisher Fund’s donations have gone to KIPP.
Charter schools, while showing some success, are not without their critics. Some note the high rate of student withdrawal and teacher turnover, because the schools are demanding. They require a 9.5 school day for students, teachers must be available at all times on cell phone to provide homework help, and there are Saturday and summer classes. In addition, the KIPP schools are non-union. Given the waiting lists, students are picked by lottery, which means the schools and the students have the luck of the draw. While findings on charter schools are mixed, the trend is going to increase as the perception grows that public schools are sorely lacking.