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UMKC ends sponsorship of eight KC charter schools, changes focus

Are there too many charter schools in Kansas City?

Counting district and charter schools, the Kansas City public school landscape is jam-packed with 82 public elementary, middle and high schools in an area populated with about 26,000 school-age children.
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Counting district and charter schools, the Kansas City public school landscape is jam-packed with 82 public elementary, middle and high schools in an area populated with about 26,000 school-age children.

After nearly two decades of sponsoring Kansas City charter schools, the University of Missouri-Kansas City is stepping away to take on a different role.

The university will shift its focus from one of oversight and accountability for eight charter schools to concentrate instead on education research.

“By relinquishing its sponsorship role, UMKC can focus on doing what it is designed to do best,” said Justin Perry, dean of the UMKC School of Education, which specializes in urban education.

UMKC will continue to work with charter schools and as well as Kansas City Public School District schools, offering such help as professional development, dual credit programs for high schools, and better preparing students for jobs and college.

UMKC took on the role of sponsor in 1999, when charters were established in Missouri — a role that was outside its traditional scope, said UMKC Chancellor C. Mauli Agrawal. But it did so “in order to bring new education options to Kansas City students,” he said.

UMKC will officially relinquish its sponsorships May 31 for these eight charters schools: University Academy, Pathway Academy, Genesis School, Lee A. Tolbert Community Academy, Frontier Schools, Brookside Charter, Allen Village School and Academy for Integrated Arts. They have already started looking for new sponsors, with UMKC’s help.

The transition will have “zero impact on the school parents and students,” said Doug Thaman, executive director of the Missouri Charter Public School Association, a charter advocacy group.

“Students will see no change at all,” he said, because the sponsor’s role is to evaluate the school’s academic and financial performance each year and to make sure the charter school is in compliance with state law.

UMKC officials said the university ‘s decision to no longer sponsor charters has nothing to do with the academic standing of the schools.

Sponsors can decide to end their sponsorship if the school’s performance is consistently poor. Last year, the University of Central Missouri severed ties with Benjamin Banneker charter after the school showed a two-year drop in test scores. The school closed this summer.

Thaman said he supports the university decision: “They believe it will allow them to deepen their partnerships with the schools. I believe that the more we are able to have partners that can conduct research, it will only strengthen the work we do. I think the research sums up what a university is fashioned to do.”

It will be up to the school boards for each charter to decide on new sponsors, but the Missouri Public Charter Commission has been suggested. The commission was established by Missouri lawmakers in 2012 after some universities questioned whether oversight and accountability were the best use of their resources.

Thaman said University Academy has already decided to use the commission as its new sponsor, but the other seven schools are still in discussions with other possible sponsors.

University of Missouri and the Kansas City Public School District also sponsor charters in Kansas City.

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