Is the ‘Lion’s Share’ of the New LeBron Affiliated Public School Covered by the Taxpayer?


Confusion surrounds the “I Promise” school (IPS) in Akron, Ohio; a school that the LeBron James Family Foundation partnered with Akron Public Schools to design.

Some websites have jumped on the Foundation for, essentially, being a public school.

“Well, Well, Look How Much TAXPAYERS Have to Pay for LeBron’s ‘Charity’ School’,” one headline from Right Wire News said. “REPORT: Taxpayers stuck with lion’s share of costs for LeBron James’ public charity school,” another blog, DML News, claimed. (These, and similar “stories” came soon after President Donald Trump attacked James’s intelligence following an interview between James and CNN’s Don Lemon.)

The blog posts claim that “LeBron’s new school is actually set to cost taxpayers much more than he, himself, will be paying, and is set to cost approximately $8 million annually” and that the foundation will “contribute $2 million per year once the school is fully functioning.”

What’s the truth?

First things first. IPS is a public school, and as such it will be funded by the public (i.e. taxpayers). The James Family Foundation funds additional services for the children and families of IPS.

According to the LeBron James Family Foundation, the $2 million figure floating around the internet—the share they are providing—comes from an early estimate regarding start up costs and is likely to increase once all of the first year contributions are tallied. The Foundation also says that the number may change annually based on community needs.

Contrary to the click-baity headlines, though, the public school will not incur “additional costs” compared to other public schools in the district, Akron School District spokesman Mark Williamson tells TWS Fact Check. “The cost is no different [than] what they were already investing in these students when they were spread across our 32 elementary schools,” Williamson says. “Nothing changes in our costs of educating our students simply because they have moved from one building into another.”

IPS will begin this school year with 3rd and 4th graders, adding 1st and 2nd grade in 2019 with a goal of covering 1st through 8th grade by 2022.

What do the foundation’s donations cover? “Extra costs are supported by the foundation,” Williamson remarked. Some of those “extra costs” include covering uniforms, food for families, career placement services, a bike and helmet for each kid, and transportation for qualified individuals.

IPS is a public school. It’s never been officially presented as anything else. As such, the teachers are still on the school district’s payroll, the building is owned by the school district, and the school is still a part of the Akron school district. According to the Foundation, students are selected based on test scores and other metrics and criteria, then placed in a lottery system.

Suggesting that “taxpayers [are] stuck with the lion’s share of costs for” IPS is no different than saying “taxpayers pay for public schools.” The Foundation is focused on additional services to students and families, not funding the cost of running a public school.

If you have questions about this fact check, or would like to submit a request for another fact check, email Holmes Lybrand at hlybrand@weeklystandard.com or the Weekly Standard at factcheck@weeklystandard.com. For details on TWS Fact Check, see our explainer here.





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