A Commitment to Transparency: KIPP Responds to PR Watch Article

On April 26, 2016, the Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch published an article about publicly available data regarding the KIPP Foundation, including our 2012 and 2013 990 tax forms and three federal grant reports. We welcome the examination of this information, which has been publicly available for some time. However, we want to clarify some of the claims around KIPP’s expenditures and transparency.

The KIPP Foundation is a national nonprofit organization. We do not directly run KIPP’s network charter schools, which are autonomously and locally governed. Instead, we provide training and support for KIPP educators, as well as monitoring schools’ performance.

Expenditures

Advertising: The Center for Media and Democracy claims that KIPP “regularly spends nearly a half million dollars per year […] on advertising.” That is inaccurate; what the authors refer to as “advertising” is in fact a much larger category. This includes printing and distributing KIPP’s annual network-wide results, as well as brochures, information sheets, and training materials. Advertising is a far smaller expense ($31,210 in 2013 and $13,537 in 2014), and represents less than 1 percent of the KIPP Foundation’s overall spending.

Executive compensation: The salaries for the KIPP Foundation CEO and KIPP co-founders have been deemed by an independent review body to fall within a reasonable range for organizations like ours.  Our leaders’ compensation also reflects the length of their tenures with KIPP: over 10 years each, as compared to an average of less than four years for urban district superintendents. The leadership continuity of KIPP’s CEO and co-founders has provided stability and a strong vision for our organization, and we value it very highly.

Travel: The Center for Media and Democracy highlights payments made to hotels in Orlando, FL and Las Vegas, NV in the 2012-13 school year. This was for our weeklong professional development conference for thousands of KIPP teachers, leaders, and staff, which occurs annually in the summer while schools are on break. The majority of these costs was providing meals for all participants throughout the week. The costs were roughly $500 per participant, which we believe is a great investment in our teachers’ careers.

Mathematica: We paid for research conducted by Mathematica in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years. A significant portion of this was required of us by the federal government, which mandated that part of our Investing in Innovation (i3) Scale-Up Grant be spent on third-party evaluation. The funding was used to evaluate KIPP’s performance and fulfill the accountability requirements of our i3 grant. Mathematica’s research has since been published, and is publicly available online.

Transparency

Transparency is a major priority for KIPP. We have a long track record of publishing our results online, including our academic performance, student attrition, and—as of 2011, when our earliest students were six or more years out of high school—college graduation rates. Our schools consistently produce significant achievement gains for students, and our alumni are completing college at more than four times the rate of their socioeconomic peers.

We asked the U.S. Department of Education to redact some information from our original Charter School Program grant application before the application was made public. However, this information is certainly relevant to our overall performance, and we routinely share this type of data. Given the questions raised, we have compiled and released this information on our website. Our academic, enrollment, and financial data is available here.

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