Bill Clinton: KIPP charter schools have “solved the No. 1 challenge in American education”

Former President Bill Clinton praised charter schools at the KIPP Summit in Orlando last week, singling out the KIPP chain for success with high-poverty students and because it has “proved that you can replicate excellence.”

“I wish there were 10 times or 100 times as many KIPP schools because you have proved that you have solved the No. 1 challenge in American education,” Clinton said. “As a laboratory of democracy, you have proved that you can replicate excellence.”

“Innovation is not just coming up with a good idea,” he continued. “Innovation is rapidly replicating excellence.”

A 12-minute portion of Clinton’s speech, which as far as I can tell was not covered by any major media, was captured and posted on YouTube by education reform advocate and KIPP supporter Whitney Tilson. In it, Clinton, an early supporter of charter schools, noted there were about 2,000 nationwide when he left office in 2001.

“Now there are nearly 6,000,” he said. “But I wish there were 12 .. 18 … 24 … 30,000. I wish there were more. And the main reason I wish there were more is you.”

Clinton pointed to the high rate of low-income kids in KIPP schools, and singled out the success of the KIPP Delta schools in his home state of Arkansas.

“Our children are not poor. They are rich in their potential,” he also said. “And KIPP has proven it.”

Clinton suggested students would benefit if more traditional public schools adopted the approach of KIPP and other high-performing charters.

“There are still people in the public school establishment who fight charter schools, which I think is a mistake,” he said. But, he quickly added, “There are still only very few charter schools that are actually working with the public schools in their communities to give all the kids the benefit of what is proven to work in successful charter schools.”

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BY Ron Matus

Ron Matus is director for policy and public affairs at Step Up for Students and a former editor of redefinED. He joined Step Up in February 2012 after 20 years in journalism, including eight years as an education reporter with the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times). Ron can be reached at or (727) 451-9830. Follow him on Twitter @RonMatus1 and on facebook at


Bill Clinton might be smart but he doesn’t know everything, like gaming the system. Read about KIPP and why their data might look good to uninformed folks. Looking good is not the same as doing good.
I won’t be wasting my time on Florida’s fake miracle schools until one has researchers hanging from the rafters trying to see what they do. The Equity Project School in NYC, which instituted Student First ideology, was outperformed by peer public schools and Florida’s charters constituted 14 or 15 of our 31 F schools last year. How many of these were KIPPs? (The accountability sytem in Florida is so faulty you can’t tell much about the quality of a school but since you like it on this page I will use that data.)
Too bad there is a stage for folks who lack info to speak as if they do. It would be like me speaking to a conference audience on astrophysics when I have no clue. Why should our children’s minds be of less importance, such that anyone can be seen as meaningul influence providers even when they are not even close to knowledgeable? Just asking.

Just to clarify ….Mr. Clinton was not talking just about schools in Florida or targeting schools in Florida by any means (Also, there was only one KIPP school in FL before 2012 SY). There are good charters and bad…good traditional public and bad, etc. Bottom line – we need to share and collaborate – do what works for students and come together. Learn from one another. Help one another grow. Build bridges. Because that is what we would teach our kids to do.

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