Former tennis champ Andre Agassi lent his star power to officially open a Dallas charter school Wednesday. The star also contributed millions from his education fund to launch the KIPP Destiny elementary school.
In a renovated auditorium that used to be part of a Mervyn’s on West Camp Wisdom in Dallas’ Red Bird area, Andre Agassi told a room of charter school parents, teachers and donors he was lucky.
“I’m a 9th grade dropout,” said Agassi.” I got lucky with where I ended up so my commitment has been to the children that aren’t so lucky, the children that don’t have a chance, a proper future and education, and I just couldn’t accept living with that.”
So nearly 20 years ago, Agassi created a non-profit foundation for children. A dozen years ago he opened a charter prep school in Las Vegas, where he lives. And more recently he partnered with KIPP, because he says it's a top tier charter school operation.
“They can have longer school days, they can have parental contracts, they can have children contracts on behavioral issues,” explained the retired tennis champion. “They have no tenure. Teachers are held accountable, students are held accountable, principals are held accountable. If you can facilitate their growth it’s the most potent form of education.”
Agassi has nothing against public schools, which charters are, technically. He just doesn’t see them changing or innovating fast enough to serve thousands of kids and parents who want more options. Brenda Jones is a parent who jumped at Dallas’ KIPP school after she heard about it on Oprah. She came up through DISD and liked her schools, but says things changed over more than 20 years.
“Teachers didn’t’ care. I didn’t see the quality of education coming out of DISD that I had previously seen when I was attending school,” Jones said.
She’s happy with KIPP. SMU Cox Business School professor Dan Howard says KIPP must feel the same way about Andre Agassi.
“It’s hard to believe they could have done any better,” Howard said. “I mean that is a very major 'get'. It’s a major benefit. They have to be - and I’m sure they are - absolutely ecstatic.”
Agassi says he’s in it for the long haul. He says his foundation has helped build two KIPP schools. He wants to build a hundred. So he says there are 98 to go.