Mike Feinberg, out at KIPP after sexual harassment and abuse allegations, continues work in education reform

Mike Feinberg, who was fired from the KIPP charter network he co-founded in the wake of allegations of sexual harassment and abuse, continues to work in the charter school sphere, both nationally and in Houston.

Feinberg, who has denied the allegations and sued KIPP for defamation, has worked to help start new charter schools in Texas and is also employed as a consultant by the Center for Education Reform, a D.C.-based nonprofit that backs charter schools and private school vouchers.

“I’ve never been guided by a group think mentality, and whatever KIPP believes or alleges about Mike is absolutely not my experience nor a concern,” Jeanne Allen, the CEO of the Center for Education Reform, told Chalkbeat in an email. “I have known plenty of people in this life who have been accused of myriad things that turned out not to be true.”

Allen, who says she has known Feinberg for many years, said he is managing the organization’s rural education initiative and creating content for a project aimed to increase D.C. charter school students’ “appreciation for this country’s founding.”

Feinberg has also drawn support locally in Houston, where he founded KIPP more than 25 years ago. He’s served as a consultant to an effort by a local furniture company to open three schools in North Houston.

“Until the allegations are proven he’s innocent to me,” Jim McIngvale, who founded Gallery Furniture and is a longtime KIPP donor, told Chalkbeat. “I’m loyal to people.”

Feinberg was fired in February 2018, with KIPP citing an investigation into sexual misconduct. Court filings in late 2019 offered more detail: A former student claimed that he sexually assaulted her under the guise of a medical exam, and a former KIPP employee said he offered her money in exchange for sex, according to an investigation by an external law firm.

McIngvale said that Feinberg would not be involved in the schools’ day-to-day operations.

”My role has been to help [McIngvale] connect educators and industry leaders to ensure more people in his store’s community have the skills to get and keep great jobs,” Feinberg said in an email.

This work is connected to Texas School Venture Fund, the organization Feinberg launched soon after he was fired to help individuals, particularly KIPP alumni, start charter schools.

The organization’s board of directors includes Chris Barbic, the founder of the YES Prep charter network and now a partner at The City Fund, and Howard Fuller, a longtime school choice advocate recently in the news for challenging Elizabeth Warren’s plan to limit charter schools.

Neither responded to requests for comment.

Fuller previously told Chalkbeat that he did not believe the allegations against Feinberg because he had denied them. “Mike is a very close friend of mine,” Fuller said in 2018. “Mike said he did not do it.”

Laura and John Arnold — Texas billionaires who have supported the growth of charter schools and KIPP in particular — donated personally to Texas School Venture Fund in 2018. A spokesperson for Arnold Ventures would not disclose how much the Arnolds gave, but did say they have made no donations since. (Chalkbeat is supported by Arnold Ventures.)

Tax filings from 2018 indicate that Texas School Venture Fund had taken in $320,000 in revenue. Feinberg declined to identify other donors.

It’s unclear how much school planning work Texas School Venture Fund has done. It did serve as the fiscal agent for a proposed charter school in Houston that was spearheaded by early KIPP alumni. (The school was not approved by the Texas Education Agency.)

“Texas School Venture Fund has been working with various educators, parents, and community organizations to help plan the creation of new types of schools where existing schools are not serving all the children well in certain communities,” Feinberg said. “These new school plans range from community-based schools to Career-Tech schools to special needs schools.”

Feinberg maintains a valid teaching certificate in the state of Texas, but state records indicate it is currently under review. Feinberg said that review will take place next month, and there he expects to “finally receive due process.”

A spokesperson for the Houston Police Department said he could not comment on whether Feinberg was under any sort of criminal investigation. Feinberg said he had not been contacted by the police about any allegations against him.

Late last year, KIPP moved to dismiss Feinberg’s defamation suit. A hearing on KIPP’s motion is scheduled for next month.