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Fired KIPP Co-Founder Mike Feinberg to Help Start New Schools

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After being fired from KIPP over allegations of sexual misconduct, the network's co-founder Michael Feinberg has launched an organization in Texas to start new schools.

The Texas School Venture Fund says on its websitethat its mission is to expand the number and diversity of "great" schools by helping educators create new schools and by assisting single-site schools and existing networks of schools in opening new campuses.

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The website doesn't say whether those will be charter schools or include other types of schools. But Howard Fuller, a long-time school choice advocate and board member for the new group, told Chalkbeat, which first reported the news, that the venture fund will work at least in part with KIPP alumni who want to start their own schools.

Feinberg, along with his fellow Teach for America alumna David Levin, launched KIPP, or the Knowledge Is Power Program, in Houston in 1994. A few years later, they took their school model to New York City. The charter network has since grown into the largest of its kind in the country with more than 200 schools.

In addition to Fuller, a former superintendent in Milwaukee, the Texas School Venture Fund's governing board includes a couple of other heavyweights from the charter school movement. One is Chris Barbic, the founder of the YES Prep charter school network. After his stint with YES Prep and a later turn as the superintendent of the state-run Tennessee Achievement School District, Barbic now works for the Arnold Foundation, which is partially based in Houston.  

John Arnold, who founded the hedge fund Centaurus Advisors, and his wife, Laura, have made a personal donation to the Texas School Venture Fund, but their foundation has not, a spokesman for the Arnold Foundation told Chalkbeat. The Texas School Venture Fund is in the early stages of raising money.

Feinberg is launching the new organization with Texas businessman and long-time charter school supporter, Leo Linbeck.

Feinberg was fired from KIPP in February over allegations of sexual misconduct with a child. He was accused of sexually abusing a student in the late 1990s, but the allegation didn't surface until 2017, according to KIPP.

KIPP Houston Public Schools and an independent law firm hired by the network investigated the claims, and found "the allegation to have credibility", although it was not able to definitively confirm it. During the course of the investigation, the law firm, WilmerHale, turned up two other misconduct allegations against Feinberg by adult employees of KIPP Houston, both of whom were former students of the charter network. One reached a settlement, while the other allegation could not be corroborated, according to KIPP officials at the time.

Feinberg denies all allegations against him.

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