“I promise to these younger kids and younger generation that I’ll continue to be a role model to them and I’ll continue to lead by example,” LeBron James said in 2013. James kept his promise.
Last week, the basketball star opened the I Promise School in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. A joint project of James’s foundation and the local school district, the school differs from other celebrity forays into education in key ways. Notably, it isn’t a charter school, which would be privately run. Instead, I Promise is a public school under the jurisdiction of the Akron school district, so it’s subject to the same regulation and oversight of all public schools. And as Education Week reported, I Promise shares DNA with the community school model, which envision schools as centers where community members can receive wraparound social services in addition to a K-12 education.
By eschewing the charter model, James not only avoids what many critics consider to be the privatization of education; he may also shore up the school system’s ability to address, rather than aggravate, existing inequalities. I Promise deliberately chose, via lottery, students with records of truancy or disciplinary problems, and will provide psychological counseling to both students and teachers.
Charter schools, by contrast, often enforce draconian conduct codes and can be quick to expel students. A 2015 investigation by The New York Times found that some administrators at Success Academy, a prestigious charter network in New York City, “singled out children they would like to see leave.” In April, NPR reported that Chicago’s Noble charter schools enforced such a strict disciplinary code that teenage girls regularly bled through their pants because their schools did not allot