$16M donation to boost charter school brand in Austin

Larkin Tackett, executive director of IDEA Austin, announces a $16 million donation and unveils plans for the charter school's expansion in Austin.

Larkin Tackett, executive director of IDEA Austin, announces a $16 million donation and unveils plans for the charter school's expansion in Austin.

A public, tuition-free chain of charter schools will have 26 Austin locations by 2022 thanks to a $16 million donation from the KLE Foundation, which aims to create equity in education among low-income and minority students.

IDEA Public Schools primarily serve low-income students, the majority of whom are Hispanic, according to the school.

IDEA’s two existing Austin campuses are located in Montopolis and Rundberg—areas with high percentages of poor students and a history of underperforming schools. The average student who transfers to IDEA is two years behind his or her peers, according to the school.

A third IDEA campus in Bluff Springs is scheduled to open in August. At the May 16 donation announcement, Larkin Tackett, executive director of IDEA Austin, said the school’s mission is to send every student to college.

“IDEA will serve 20,000 students every year in this community [by 2022], and every single one of them will be on track to go to college,” he said. “A child’s ZIP code should not determine his or her destiny.”

Yolanda Davila is a member of IDEA Public Schools’ Austin board of directors, and her son attends IDEA Allan in Montopolis. Davila said she was a first-generation college graduate.

“At IDEA it's not about luck; it’s about a deliberate plan to make college a reality for so many kids,” she said. “I am thrilled to be a part of IDEA’s growth in Austin.”

The KLE Foundation was established by Rani Clasquin and Eric Harslem, along with their daughter, Kate, in 1997.

“IDEA has already proven itself a leader in providing high-quality public education that leads to and through college,” said Harslem. “We focus our giving on evidence-based programs that get results, and IDEA has an excellent track record in this regard.”

IDEA first opened in Austin in 2011, and it has not yet had a graduating class. According to the school, all graduating seniors from the other IDEA Public Schools in Texas have been accepted to college for nine consecutive years.