IDEA Public Schools Austin announced Monday, May 16th, that it will serve 20,000 students in 20 new schools by 2022. The expansion is made possible by a $16 million donation from the KLE foundation, which supports IDEA’s mission of College For All Children. Hundreds of community leaders, IDEA parents, and IDEA students cheered the announcement at a celebratory event held at the school’s Rundberg campus.
When fully scaled, IDEA Austin’s 26 schools throughout greater Austin will send more than a thousand students to college every year, most of whom will be the first in their families to earn a college degree.
“Thousands more children and families on Austin’s east side will have the types of options that families typically have on the west side—the option of a free, public, quality education leading to and through college,” said Larkin Tackett, executive director of IDEA Austin. “The bold plan we’re announcing today is equal to the size of Austin’s educational challenge.”
While Austin is known as a national center of innovation and economic growth, only 6 percent of low-income students here earn college degrees, Tackett said. IDEA had to turn away 3,000 students this year for lack of available seats.
IDEA’s goal is for every community in and around Austin to have a high-performing public school that prepares all of its students for college. IDEA is committed to partnership with other public school districts and with neighborhood leaders through the greater Austin community. The organization is currently seeking property for the new campuses in the areas of highest need.
Lorraine (Rani) Clasquin and Eric Harslem founded the KLE Foundation in 1997. (The K is for their daughter, Kate.) Both Clasquin and Harslem are the grandchildren of immigrants, and grew up in modest homes. They believe that the opportunity to attend excellent schools was the most important factor in determining their success in life, and their foundation’s primary mission is to provide quality educational opportunities to underserved communities.
“IDEA has already proven itself a leader in providing high-quality public education that leads to and through college,” Harslem says. “We focus our giving on evidence-based programs that get results, and IDEA Public Schools has an excellent track record in this regard.”
Harslem served in senior leadership roles at both Dell and at Apple; Clasquin was a partner with the New York City-based law firm Holtzmann, Wise, and Shepard.
Yolanda Davila, IDEA Austin board member and parent of a student at IDEA Allen College Prep, spoke at the announcement event about her own experience.
“As a first generation college student who had humble beginnings, and attended the number one liberal arts school in the country, I can personally attest to the importance of college as a vehicle out of poverty, crime, and disparities in people’s educational attainment,” Davila said.
IDEA Allan College Prep rising sophomore Ashley Leyva also spoke at the event, describing her single mother driving to work in San Marcos every day at 5 a.m., leaving Ashley and her brother to get themselves to the bus stop by 6:50 a.m.
“I realized that in four years of going to IDEA, I’ve never been late to the bus stop. Not once. No excuses.” Leyva plans to go to Texas Women’s University, and to return to Austin to teach algebra at one of IDEA’s new schools.
About IDEA Public Schools
IDEA Public Schools is a growing network of tuition-free K-12 public schools serving nearly 24,000 students in 44 schools across Texas (Austin, San Antonio, and the Rio Grande Valley). With a track record of success including schools that have been ranked among the best and most challenging public schools in the country by the Washington Post and U.S. News and World Report, 100 percent college acceptance, and a college graduation rate five times the national average for low-income students, IDEA families, students, and staff are proving that college is possible for all children. www.ideapublicschools.org