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Andre Agassi: private sector best for education

Kiran Moodley, special to CNBC.com
Wednesday, 12 Jun 2013 | 4:42 AM ET
Andre Agassi: Private Sector Best for Education
Tuesday, 11 Jun 2013 | 7:00 PM ET
Former tennis player Andre Agassi tells CNBC that when it comes to U.S. education the private sector, not the government, is the best means through which to create better schools.

Former tennis player Andre Agassi has told CNBC that when it comes to U.S. education the private sector, not the government, is the best means through which to create better schools.

Agassi, who won eight Grand Slam titles during a 20-year career, has turned his attention to education since his retirement, setting up a charter school in his hometown of Las Vegas and forming the Canyon-Agassi Charter School Facilities fund, which aims to finance the creation of such schools across the country.

The fund hopes to create up to 100 campuses within five years with space for almost 50,000 students.

Speaking to Tania Bryer for CNBC Meets, Agassi said, "Sometimes the government can treat a problem, but if you truly want to solve a problem, we can still do that through the private sector and I figured out a way to marry all of it."

Charter schools, publicly-funded yet independently-run primary and secondary schools, are at the center of the education reform debate in the U.S. Charter schools receive public funds per student but do not receive facilities funding such as general maintenance and building work.

Agassi built his first school, the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, by raising $40 million in donations. The Canyon-Agassi fund, however, is a for-profit investment vehicle, which plans to deploy $550 million to build schools across the U.S.

(Read More: Andre Agassi: Las Vegas Is Back in Business)

Agassi says the fund allows investors to reap returns as well as enact social change.

"As a result of selling this mission, this vision we're deploying over $550 million over the United States: building schools for operators that know how to educate our future. It is absolutely one of the most rewarding things I've ever been a part of," Agassi said.

"It's the one thing we can still do: innovate. If you want to treat a problem, philanthropy is a great way to treat problems."

"I raised the money, put the burden on myself to keep paying the mortgage, and we built it," he said of his first school.

"But if you could figure out a way to put the infrastructure in place for four great operators, who are going to bring their product to a place in our country where there's a waiting list for stuff... what you're doing is helping upscale at an unparalleled rate."

Charter schools do have their critics. For some, the popularity of charter schools has shrunk the number of public schools available, often leaving half-empty schools in neighborhoods and threatening the future of public schools themselves. This debate has been particularly fierce in Washington, D.C. and was the subject of the 2010 award-winning documentary "Waiting For Superman."

CNBC Meets: Andre Agassi will air on Wednesday 12 June.

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  • Tania Bryer is a guest presenter and executive producer of CNBC Meets. In this series, she profiles some of the world’s most successful business people to find out what makes them tick. Bryer previously worked for BBC and Sky Television.