apropos?

KIPP charter school funders are major Republican Party donors

Via Flickr.
Via Flickr.

Here’s a fact of interest in the KIPP vs. teachers union fracas, which looks increasingly like a war: The people who have been the charter school network’s major benefactors are also among the Republican Party’s most generous contributors.

Donald and Doris Fisher, the aging founders of the Gap clothing chain, each donated to George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004; maxed out at the $2,300 limit to Rudy Giuliani in 2007; made regular donations to Norm Coleman, the Minnesota senator Al Franken eventually (presumably) unseated, and poured money into the Republican Party war chest, recent campaign contribution filings show.

The Fishers did send some money to Democrats, too, including $5,000 to a group tied to Rep. George Miller, the chair of the House education committee and a supporter of No Child Left Behind and charter schools. But the overwhelming majority of their giving (especially their federal giving) went to Republicans.

Dave Levin, a KIPP co-founder who got flak when he and students appeared on stage at the 2000 Republican National Convention, said the donations have no bearing on KIPP. “The Fisher’s political activities and their philanthropic involvement in education and KIPP are independent of each other,” he wrote in an e-mail message.

Jay Mathews’ new book about KIPP, “Work Hard. Be Nice.,” describes Levin’s sister Jessica’s reaction to his decision to appear on stage at the Republican convention. “Why would you want to help Bush get elected?” she reportedly asked him. “He doesn’t care about those kids.” Mathews also gives an account of how Levin and KIPP cofounder Mike Feinberg answer perennial questions about their own party affiliation. Are you a Democrats or a Republican? they are asked. Each man’s reply: “I’m a teacher.”

The Fishers have given KIPP over $50 million since the network began with two schools in 2000, funding initiatives aimed at replicating the original schools around the country, such as principal training programs and professional development for teachers.

An interesting piece about Donald Fisher’s political giving in San Francisco, from 1997, is here. The key idea:

A paper trail of correspondence, appraisals, and contracts lays bare a simple fact: The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency cut a sweetheart deal with Fisher and The Gap, and forgot to attach any strings. When pressed, public officials are unable to provide a satisfactory — or even reasonable — explanation for their actions.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.