A group of supporters gathered on October 17 in the Coates Chapel at the Southwest School of Art to launch Choose to Succeed, a movement to dramatically expand the community of high performing charter schools in San Antonio by growing the ones that are here and attracting the best charter school operators from across the country.
The Express-News covered the event in today’s paper and talked to several Choose to Succeed supporters. “Well-heeled S.A. effort aims for more charter schools — lots more”, Lindsay Kastner, San Antonio Express-News, October 29, 2012. The article includes several comments from supporters:
- Phil Hardberger, former mayor of San Antonio, “said he does not view traditional public schools as failures but that too many students still drop out and too few graduates are prepared for college. Not all charter schools are better, he said, but it’s worth trying out the top performers, and the public schools ‘may learn something from that experiment.’”
- Harvey Najim of Sirius Computer Solutions and the Najim Family Foundation: “’What happens when you lose your customers in business is you look at your business practices and you try to change them to get your customers back.’ said Najim. ‘I think this will force the public schools to make their curriculum and their instruction stronger.’”
- Former San Antonio mayor Henry Cisneros: “‘I’m first and foremost a believer in the importance of our public schools,’ Cisneros said. ‘But I do think charters are one additional option for reaching more children and for showing alternative delivery systems.’”
- The Ewing Halsell Foundation “has devoted $16 million, or 25 percent of its budget, to the effort, including a $10 million pledge to IDEA.”
- Victoria Rico of the Brackenridge Foundation is leading the charge; her organization has pledged over $6 million already.
- Mark Larson, CEO of KIPP: San Antonio, is a supporter, even “though the additional schools could compete with his for students and donations. He even helped steer Rico toward other CMOs. ‘And so if they can come in and be part of the solution . . . then I welcome them,’ he said.”
Talk about aggressive: the Choose to Succeed schools (IDEA Public Schools, KIPP: San Antonio, Great Hearts Academies, BASIS Schools, Carpe Diem Schools, and Rocketship Education) “could serve about 80,000 local students by 2026 at as many as 145 campuses, or more than 20 percent of current Bexar County school enrollment.” David Dunn of the Texas Charter Schools Association commented that “he has never seen a group of Texas philanthropic heavyweights court so many charter operators so aggressively,” according to Kastner.
Kastner also spoke with charter school skeptics, including Sylvester Perez (acting superintendent of San Antonio ISD), Shelley Potter (San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel), and Clay Robison (Texas State Teachers Association).