Quentin Vance

‘Everyone gets better:’ On cooperation between districts and charter schools

For its first hearing of the year, the Florida House’s Education Committee heard from leaders of several out-of-state charter school networks. The theme, according to Mike Bileca, R-Miami and chair of the committee, was “schools that have taken excellence and scaled.”

Florida education officials have pushed for years to bring more nationally well-regarded charter schools to the state. Bileca has long supported those efforts.

Quentin Vance
KIPP Foundation executive Quentin Vance addresses the Florida House Education Committee.

 Quentin Vance, an executive at the KIPP Foundation, pushed back against the idea that there’s “a trade-off between charter schools and public schools, and this is a competition.” His organization, one of the largest charter operators in the country, has started a network of schools in Jacksonville, and is now in the early stages of a formal collaboration with the Duval County school district there.

An excerpt from his comments is below, lightly edited for length and clarity.

Nationally, what we’ve seen in growing schools in so many different cities across the country is that when there is increased choice for kids, where families can become consumers and the only metric of deciding where they want to go to school is what’s going to be best for their kids it creates an environment in which everyone gets better.

If you look at the environment in New York City today versus the environment two decades ago when I first moved to New York City, and you saw families on the front page of the New York Post refusing to send their kids to school, you then go to Central Harlem, where I think six out of every ten families send their kids to a public charter school.
Those schools are serving those kids incredibly well, but those schools around that neighborhood also continue to get better.

I think there are amazing folks across the country who are thinking about not only creating the opportunity for choice, but also ways of partnering.

One of the things I think we’re really proud of at KIPP is our partnership outside Houston — the SKY Partnership, where KIPP has partnered with YES Prep and the traditional [school district] to create choice schools that are amazing, and providing great opportunities for kids to fulfill their best selves.

I think that there is a future in which collaboration and greater partnership leads to a better opportunity for all kids within any city.

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BY Travis Pillow

Travis Pillow is Director of Thought Leadership at Step Up For Students and editor of NextSteps. He lives in Sanford, Fla. with his wife and two children. A former Tallahassee statehouse reporter, he most recently worked at the Center on Reinventing Public Education, a research organization at Arizona State University, where he studied community-led learning innovation and school systems' responses to the Covid-19 pandemic. He can be reached at tpillow (at) sufs.org.