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Tennessee: Aspire Charter Chain In Trouble, Financially and Academically

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The Aspire charter chain in Memphis is in trouble and debating its future. This is one of billionaire Reed Hastings’ investments, and it is not faring well.

Facing a roughly $2 million operating deficit and lagging academic progress, a California-based charter organization that runs four schools in Memphis is reconsidering its future in the city — even floating the possibility of pulling out of the area altogether.

At a public meeting on Friday, Aspire’s national board discussed with its Memphis staff four possible scenarios for moving forward. Board chair Jonathan Garfinkel said that changes are anticipated, given the budget deficit and the fact that academic “results have not been what we’ve hoped.”

As a result, Aspire could cease to oversee its four Memphis schools, which serve some 1,600 students in total. This wouldn’t mean the schools would close, but that the governance of the school would change. A task force — composed of board members, Aspire staff in Memphis and consultants — came up with the following four possible paths forward, though Garfinkel said more possibilities could be considered.

Memphis remains an Aspire region with additional supports and a plan to close the financial gap.

Memphis becomes an Aspire “franchise,” keeping the name and core approach and receiving some supports, like curriculum and coaching, but operates as a separate nonprofit with significantly more autonomy.

The four Memphis schools become a standalone charter network with their own central office and fundraising function.

The four schools team up with one or more existing local school district or charter network.

If any changes are made, they wouldn’t go into place until after this school year. Garfinkel emphasized that no decisions have been made, and the task force would use Friday’s conversation to steer its board recommendations, slated for January.

Guess they are not “saving poor kids in failing schools.”

Wonder if Reed Hastings will rethink his grand plan to privatize every public school? I’m guessing not. Being a billionaire means never saying you made a mistake.

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