The KIPP charter schools in Houston are getting a huge boost from Bill Gates, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced that it is guaranteeing $30 million worth of bonds so that KIPP can expand operations here "from 4,500 in 15 schools to 21,000 students in 42 schools in the next decade," the paper reported.
KIPP will be responsible for paying back the money to lenders, but the fact that the Gates Foundation is saying it will pay if KIPP fails to means the organization can get a much better deal from lenders. It could save $10 million over the 35-year life of the bonds, and it lets the Gates Foundation spread the wealth without (they hope) actually putting any money out there.
KIPP has long been held out -- despite some occasional mild criticism -- as a model for charter schools nationwide.
As we said in 2003, when we gave it a Best of Houston award:
Armed with full scholarships to Andover, Exeter, Miss Porter's and other elite schools, graduates of KIPP Academy (a middle school, soon to be K-12) know firsthand that "Knowledge Is Power." Even Kinkaid and St. John's fight over KIPP graduates. KIPP takes kids from Houston's most under-resourced, drug- and gang-ridden neighborhoods and, through high expectations and challenging academic requirements, produces stellar students. New KIPPsters have to sign contracts promising to go to school ten hours a day during the week, on Saturdays and through much of the summer. Why not volunteer to teach an extracurricular class some Saturday to bright, motivated kids? In turn, they'll teach you that knowledge is power indeed.
And now they have the power of Microsoft behind them.