GOOD

Can Andre Agassi and a Team of Investment Bankers Improve Education (and Turn a Profit)?

The tennis legend is launching a for-profit venture that hopes to leverage $750 million in assets to build 75 charter schools nationwide.

The latest investor in charter schools isn't a tech billionaire or a venture capitalist, it's tennis great Andre Agassi. He's teamed up with an investment banking group to create the Canyon‐Agassi Charter School Facilities Fund, a for-profit venture that hopes to leverage $750 million in assets to fund the construction of 75 charter schools nationwide over the next few years.


Agassi, who dropped out of school in ninth grade to pursue tennis, is no stranger to charters. He founded the Andre Agassi Charter Preparatory Academy in 2001 in his hometown of Las Vegas. Given his school's academic success, it's understandable that he wants to help charters expand.

Not everyone is sold on charter schools, though. As the 2009 Stanford CREDO study on charters revealed, half of existing charters are no better than traditional public schools. Of the remaining half of charters, only one third do better than their public peers and the rest are actually worse. Despite the data, there's such a strong desire to find a way to provide children in low-income urban areas with an excellent education, so the push to expand charters has continued unabated.

The growth of charter schools has also made facility space a bone of contention between charter operators and traditional public schools. Some states have passed laws mandating that regular schools share classroom space with charters. Still other charter operators have had to set up shop in church facilities or have rented office space. To solve the space problem, the fund will either construct buildings outright for charters or will help remodel existing spaces so that they're appropriate for students.

Once the schools move in to their new facilities, they'll pay market-rate rent to the fund until they can secure a tax-exempt loan from the municipal bond market and purchase the school outright from the fund. Where will the schools get the money to pay back the fund? Since charter schools are still public schools, the money allocated by the state per pupil follows the individual student—meaning that tax dollars set aside for education will end up in the bank accounts of fund investors like Citigroup and Intel.

Investment banker Bobby Turner, fund manager at Canyon Capital Realty Advisors, Agassi's partners, told the Los Angeles Times he expects "to attract investors who realize that making money and making societal change don't have to be mutually exclusive." True, we shouldn't expect businesses to not want to turn a profit, and given that there's a need for school space, it's smart business for these investors to step in to help. But the birth of this fund is sure to give credence to the belief that businesses are pushing for policies that disband traditional public schools and promoting charters precisely because they see them as money making opportunities.

The fund hopes their charter schools will ultimately educate almost 40,000 students. The first, a KIPP school, is set to open in Philadelphia this fall.

photo via The Tiebreakers

Articles

The healthcare systems in the United States and the United Kingdom couldn't be more different.

The UK's National Health Service is the largest government-run healthcare system in the world and the US's is largest private sector system.

Almost all essential health services in the UK are free, whereas in America cost can vary wildly based on insurance, co pays and what the hospitals and physicians choose to charge.

A medical bill in the US

One of the largest differences is cost. The average person in the UK spends £2,989 ($3915) per year on healthcare (most of which is collected through taxes), whereas the average American spends around $10,739 a year.

So Americans should obviously be getting better care, right? Well, the average life expectancy in the UK is higher and infant mortality rate is lower than that in the US.

RELATED: The World Health Organization declares war on the out of control price of insulin

Plus, in the U.S., only 84% of people are covered by private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. Sixteen percent of the population are forced to pay out of pocket.

In the UK, everyone is covered unless they are visiting the country or an undocumented resident.

Prescription drugs can cost Americans an arm and a leg, but in the UK, prescriptions or either free or capped at £8.60 ($11.27).

via Wikimedia Commons

The one drawback to the NHS system is responsiveness. In the UK people tend to wait longer for inessential surgeries, doctor's appointments, and in emergency rooms. Whereas, the US is ranked as the most responsive country in the world.

RELATED: Alarmingly high insulin prices are forcing Americans to flock to Canada to buy the drug

The New York Times printed a fair evaluation of the UK's system:

The service is known for its simplicity: It is free at the point of use to anyone who needs it. Paperwork is minimal, and most patients never see a bill. … No one needs to delay medical treatment until he or she can afford it, and virtually everyone is covered. …

According to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States spent 17.2 percent of its economic output on health care in 2016, compared with 9.7 percent in Britain. Yet Britain has a higher life expectancy at birth and lower infant mortality.

Citizens in each country have an interesting perspective on each other's healthcare systems. UK citizens think it's inhumane for Americans have to pay through the nose when they're sick or injured. While Americans are skeptical of socialist medicine.

A reporter from Politics Joe hit the streets of London and asked everyday people what they think Americans pay for healthcare and they were completely shocked.

Health

Bans on plastic bags and straws can only go so far. Using disposable products, like grabbing a plastic fork when you're on the go, can be incredibly convenient. But these items also contribute to our growing plastic problem.

Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Cocostation

Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger

Dizaul

Why spend time looking around for an outlet when you can just harness the power of the sun? This solar powered phone charger will make sure your phone never dies as long as you can bask in the sun's rays. As an added bonus, this charger was made using eco-friendly silicone rubber. It's win-win all around.

Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

Planter Pro's Herb Garden Cedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazonedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazon

Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

K&J Reusable Filter Cups, $8.95 for a set of 4,; at Amazon

Low-flow shower head

Speakman

Low-flow water fixtures can cut down your water consumption, which saves you money while also saving one of the Earth's resources. This shower head was designed with a lighter flow in mind, which means you'll be able to cut down on water usage without feeling like you're cutting down on your shower.

Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor

Zomchi

Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

The Planet
Instagram / Leonardo DiCaprio

This August, the world watched as the Amazon burned. There were 30,901 individual fires that lapped at the largest rainforest in the world. While fires can occur in the dry season due to natural factors, like lightning strikes, it is believed that the widespread fires were started by loggers and farmers to clear land. Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, cites a different cause: the actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

DiCaprio wasn't accused of hanging out in the rainforest with a box of matches, however President Bolsonaro did accuse the actor of funding nonprofit organizations that allegedly set fires to raise donations.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet