Rapper Pitbull Wants to Open a Sports-Focused Charter School in Baltimore

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Pitbull in 2012. Photo by Eva Rinaldi, via Wikimedia Commons.

South Florida rapper and entertainer Armando Christian Pérez, better known as Pitbull, is eyeing Charm City for his next education project.

Fox45 reported yesterday that the artist and entertainer known for hits like “Timber” and “We Are One” hopes to expand his growing chain of Sports Leadership and Management (SLAM) charter schools to Baltimore.

“It would be truly my pleasure to come to B’More and open up a SLAM,” he told the station.

Mr. 305 entered the charter school game in 2013, establishing the first SLAM charter middle and high school in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood, where he was born and raised. The school’s website list its mission as offering “an innovative and in-depth secondary educational program that produces college-bound students through an emphasis on sports-related majors and post-secondary preparation.”

SLAM Academy expanded to Palm Beach, Fla., and Las Vegas last year. Those locations don’t have data on student outcomes available on their websites just yet, but the one in Miami boasts test scores and graduation rates exceeding state averages in Florida.

SLAM is building another location in Tampa and has received approval to open another school west of Delray Beach, Fla., in 2018, the same time it would plan to open a Baltimore location. Fox45 says the chain runs seven schools in all across three states.

Asked for his opinion on the artist and his idea, Gov. Larry Hogan, a strong proponent of charter schools in Maryland, told Fox45 he is “a Pitbull fan, believe it or not.”

“I’ve heard about some of the success. We’d love to take a look at it,” he said. “We’re happy to have the opportunity to take a look at them opening a charter school in Maryland.”

At least one other city hasn’t been so keen. The school board for Atlanta Public Schools earlier this month rejected a proposal for a SLAM Academy there, citing its over-reliance on an outside management company, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

SLAM academies are run by the nonprofit charter school network Mater Academy, which relies on the for-profit firm Academica to manage operations for each school. The latter was the subject of a Miami Herald investigation from 2011 that uncovered some questionable profit-making tactics used by the company, including its CEO renting out some of his own real estate holdings to schools his company operates at abnormally high rates.

Baltimore is already chock full of charter schools, with 34 listed on the city school system’s website. They served 14,000 students — about one in six across the city — in the 2015-16 school year, according to the system’s most recent annual review.

For middle and high schoolers, SLAM’s targeted age range here, Baltimore charter schools produced mixed results. Middle schools with more than 90 percent of students receiving free or reduced meals posted lower average state test scores than traditional schools. Most charters with smaller proportions of free-and-reduced-meal students beat average marks across the school system.

For charter high schools, however, students fared worse than those studying at the city’s selective high schools (like City College and Poly) and performed only slightly better than those at traditional high schools.

Pitbull, for his part, has said Baltimore is the perfect spot for his education pedagogy.

“I think Baltimore is one of those cities that needs SLAM the most,” he said in another interview last week with Fox45. “Baltimore, there’d be nothing better than or truly my pleasure to come to B’More and open up a SLAM and talk to all the kids down there.”

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
Ethan McLeod
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