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Eight Kansas City Charter Schools Will Need New Sponsors After UMKC Exits

Courtesy University Academy
University Academy, one of the eight charter schools UMKC sponsored, has already announced it will seek sponsorship from the Missouri Charter Public Schools Commission.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City will no longer sponsor charter schools after the 2018-19 school year.

The decision affects eight charter schools that together serve more than 5,000 students. Two of the schools, the Academy for Integrated Arts and University Academy, were quick to announce they were in talks with the Missouri Charter Public School Commission, an independent sponsor that gets its funding from the state.

The other six schools – Allen Village School, Brookside Charter, Frontier Schools, Genesis School, Lee A. Tolbert Community Academy and Pathway Academy – are still exploring their options. The University of Missouri, the University of Central Missouri and the Kansas City Public Schools also sponsor charter schools in the metro.

Though there’s been talk for some time that UMKC would withdraw as a sponsor, the charter schools only learned of the final decision in the last week. Jennifer Watson, the director of communications for the three Frontier Schools, says the district sent a letter to parents Thursday explaining what was happening.

“We let our parents know this isn’t going to change the high-quality education that we are providing to students,” Watson said. “The only change is we’re going to be working with a new sponsor.”

The letter Academy for Integrated Arts Executive Director Tricia DeGraff sent to parents on Wednesday struck a similar tone.

“This change will not impact the daily experiences of our students, faculty and families or the daily operations at AFIA,” DeGraff wrote, adding that the change of sponsor to the Missouri Charter Public School Commission would be effective this month.

Although sponsors can revoke their sponsorship of underperforming charter schools, that’s not what’s happening here. UMKC is withdrawing from charter school sponsorship entirely in order to focus on education research.

“We can best support charter schools, and all urban schools, by focusing on issues such as the PK-12 workforce pipeline, personalized learning, professional development, student and teacher health and well-being, and educational policy,” School of Education Dean Justin Perry said in a statement, adding that UMKC will work with all of its charters to find new sponsors.

Earlier this year students at the Benjamin Banneker Charter Academy of Technology were caught in a battle between school administrators and sponsor UCM, which had been warning the school for months the relationship would terminate due to two years of declining test scores. School administrators held out for another sponsor and refused help from UCM to place students at other schools.

Asked if she thought it mattered to parents who sponsored their children’s school, Watson said yes, she did.

“We provide enough education to our parents to help them understand what a charter school really is and that we are accountable to our sponsor,” Watson said. “Our parents recognize UMKC as a local leader in the community, so I think they’ll have a vested interest in knowing who we select as our next sponsor.”

The charter schools currently sponsored by UMKC have until May 31, 2019, to find new sponsors.

KCUR is licensed to the University of Missouri Board of Curators and is an editorially independent community service of the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Elle Moxley covers education for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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