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KIPP Houston and Its “Etc.” Fees

July 2, 2017

On June 29, 2017, the Houston Chronicle carried a story entitled, “KIPP Schools Charged Unallowable Fees, State Agency Finds.”

KIPP stands for Knowledge is Power Program– ironic given that the primary point of the article is that some parents who even advocated for Texas’ KIPP charter schools discovered that they had been paying fees that were supposedly optional– without being fully informed that such fees were not mandatory.

An excerpt:

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. …

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.

“A handful of schools got it wrong… and contradicted what was in the (KIPP schools’) handbook, while other schools got it right and made sure parents knew it was voluntary,” Kot said.

The article continues by noting that KIPP has no intention of addressing reimbursing the parents and guardians whose children attend those KIPP schools that “got it wrong.”

According to Kot, the KIPP handbook got it right and some individual schools in the KIPP franchise got it wrong.

Out of curiosity, I examined the 2017-18 KIPP Houston Student/Parent Handbook.

On page 23, I learned that parents could be charged a fee for retrieving a confiscated cell phone or for picking up children late after school– and for an undefined, cover-all-bases “etc.”:

While a more specific list will be given to you by your school, some school fees may include the following:

School policy fees for such things as lost textbooks, returning a confiscated cell phone, lost agendas, late pick-up for those children who are not picked up on time, etc.

So, KIPP Houston leaves it up to its schools as to whether each chooses to charge fees related to cell phone confiscation, late student pick up, “etc.” But don’t assume that a prospective KIPP parent/guardian is able to use the internet to investigate those school-specific “etc.” fees in order to make a better-informed decision about selecting KIPP in the first place.

As of this writing, KIPP Houston includes 28 schools.

However, the link to the “school websites” takes one to a general page about each school. One cannot access any individual school policy pages in order to ascertain what, exactly, a parent or guardian might be charged by way of school policy fees that fall under the “etc.” that is unique to each school.

Also, googling a particular KIPP Houston school name along with “school policy” yields nothing.

School choice: Where franchised charter schools get to discipline parents and students via mystery fees or optional fees that may not be reimbursed when the “optional” component is, uh, miscommunicated.

Knowledge is indeed power.

So is withholding knowledge.

Individual KIPP schools need to clarify their “etc.” fees.

dollar airplane



Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

From → Charters

  1. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    Try this. Look at parent handbooks for other charter franchises. Look at Eva’s Success Academy. I tripped on the parent handbook for a local charter school. Kids and parents were at the mercy of a host of rules that’s functioned as a contract… Do this or you will pay a fee or your kid will have to do whatever. The handbooks are a tool for getting rid of non compliant parents and their students.

    • EXPOSING the fee game: how banks methodically rob their customers — now the educational game?

    • Linda permalink

      The contractor school parents are experiencing one of the 4 corporate initiatives driving the nation. Public services that are privatized have consumers, whose concerns are handled as service complaints rather than as part of a democratic process where public officials are answerable to taxpayers and those who rely on the public services. Gordon Later identified the ALEC agenda in his book, “The One Percent Solution”.

  2. Linda permalink

    “School choice” is conjoined with the buyer beware defense, used by business to justify exploitation of the most vulnerable.

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