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Who Let the Dogs Out? Pitbull Opens Charter School in Miami

Who Let the Dogs Out? Pitbull Opens Charter School in Miami

Armando Christian Pérez is opening a charter school in Miami. This, in and of itself, is not an amazing fact considering that since the first charter school opened in 1992, there have been more than 5,000 charter schools created, which now serve more than 1.7 million students. It is, however, interesting to say the least when you consider that Armando Christian Pérez is better known as Mr. 305, Mr. Worldwide, or Pitbull.

Now, I’m not an avid Pitbull fan like some of my students are, but I enjoy a good Pitbull song every now and again, especially when one comes on in the middle of my Zumba class. I can even overlook the sexist, mysoginistic lyrics on occasion in favor of a good beat and a feel-good chorus. But opening a school? Is he really qualified to do this?

Pitbull himself would say that, yes, he is qualified. At this year’s National Charter School Conference in Washington, D.C., he talked about his new school — called the Sports Leadership and Management Academy, or SLAM for short — and he informed his audience that he is ”not just a charter school advocate. … I’m a charter school parent.” However, does sending your kids to a charter school make you an expert in school management? Well, if we could follow that logic, sending your car to a mechanic would make you qualified to open an auto shop, or eating at a restaurant would make you qualified to open one.

I’m not the only one who thinks so; former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education and renowned charter school opponent Diane Ravitch slammed SLAM for its for-profit status: “[I]t is not that Mr. Pitbull has a heart overflowing with love of children or love of learning. He is making a lot of money.”

Many, many people are shocked that a rapper with such a bad reputation, with lyrics that are too vulgar to be repeated on the radio or in this blog post, could even dream of opening a school and have it supported by the public. Raquel Regalado, a member of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ school board, told NPR: “[I] don’t know if it’s going to provide something useful at the end of the day… I guess you can expect Pitbull to show up every now and then, and that’s cool if you’re a Pitbull fan … [but] how does that translate into academic achievement? That’s the difficult part of this that parents don’t understand. … I think it’s a marketing ploy, honestly.”

Celebrities are no strangers to this type of marketing ploy. Famous benefactors from Meryl Streep to Sandra Bullock to Oprah have opened charter schools or made significant donations to them around the world. There are numerous problems with this, not least of which is the obvious attempt to look charitable in the face of a scrutinizing public by throwing money around.

First and foremost is the fact that, despite a few appearances in the school’s (no doubt state-of-the-art) auditorium, these celebs cannot be counted on to be active participants in the education of the students that attend there. When these celebrities open schools and walk away, there’s no telling what might happen, like the scandal Oprah faced at her Leadership Academy for Girls in Johannesburg just a few years ago.

While things that extreme may not be happening in U.S. charter schools, the model simply isn’t sustainable. The teacher turnover rate at charter schools is so incredibly high that most teachers don’t have more than a few years experience. It’s been proven that teachers with five or more years are the most effective, so charter schools are not getting the most effective teachers. According to Mother Jones, this high turnover is a direct result of the fact that charter school teachers are not afforded the same contracts as public school teachers and, therefore, work incredibly long hours. This is great when they are young and idealistic, but it is not a sustainable job choice for anyone who wants a life outside of work.

I suppose only time will tell, but I, for one, am not convinced that SLAM will be a slam dunk. For the kids’ sake, I hope it is, but we will have to wait and see.

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Photo Credit: Eva Rinaldi

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58 comments

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10:28AM PDT on Oct 28, 2013

Suzan F i agree with you...

8:14AM PDT on Oct 25, 2013

Jan N. wrote

".... How much money or time and effort has the esteemed author bothered to contribute to any cause, ..."

I have no idea how much Care2 pays its writers, but if it's like what colleges and universities pay their adjunct faculty, the author probably has very little disposable income.

When I earned a low salary, I was not charitable. Every cent was spoken for.

1:57PM PDT on Oct 24, 2013

Oh my....

3:18AM PDT on Oct 24, 2013

....Was cut off, the last line to my comment was:

Of course there'll be some jerks too out for personal gain, but we should give even celebrities the benefit of a doubt.

3:17AM PDT on Oct 24, 2013

Obviously we can and should be able to be analytical or even critical of anything. And if a celebrity does something, we shouldn't be blindly in awe. On the other hand, I feel it's too easy to be negative and cynical, even when we're only been given a handful of facts like now.

We don't know whether Pitbull's school venture will be of poor quality, or high level education that will benefit kids who e.g. wouldn't educate themselves otherwise. And, we don't know if it's just to make money, or non-profit and truly altruistic.

We can't expect a celebrity to help every cause in the world (like pitbull dogs like someone suggested), I think it's fair to let everyone choose a cause that's close to their heart for whatever reason.

We can't expect a celebrity to be held accountable of every charitable thing they do. If they give money to e.g. a school, they shouldn't be expected to manage day-to-day tasks or teach there or do janitor work. They have careers of their own, so they delegate these things to other people who can do that better. However, sometimes those people aren't up to their jobs. But it's the same as with us commoners: I try to make informed choices regarding my charities, but I can't be held responsible for that charity's performance. Neither should the celebrities.

We can't expect celebrities to publicise every charitable thing they do. Lot more could happen behind the scenes.

Of course there'll be some jerks too out for personal gain, but we should gi

11:17PM PDT on Oct 23, 2013

I agree with Mary K.'s comment.but maybe he's not an animal advocate

7:19PM PDT on Oct 23, 2013

Thank him for at least trying.

5:52PM PDT on Oct 23, 2013

why so much hate? Pitbull is trying to do something for the community. The SAME EXACT PEOPLE who are complaining about Pitbull opening a charter school would be the SAME EXACT PEOPLE who would complain if Pitbull contributed nothing to educate! It says a lot more about Pitbull's critics than Pitbull himself!

Plus, this stuff about his videos being "sexist" is ridiculous, as if Pitbull is supposed to apologize for being attracted to the opposite sex! It's just entertainment!

5:50PM PDT on Oct 23, 2013

My challenge to Pitbull is to run the school entirely with private funds. Show us that it can work and it is not another backdoor entry for corporate welfare.

3:02PM PDT on Oct 23, 2013

grounds for concern abound

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