KCPS Board Of Education Wants To Speak With 'One Voice' About Charter Schools

Jul 26, 2017

The Kansas City Public Schools Board of Education is preparing to take a public stance on the rapid expansion of charters. 

The Kansas City Public Schools Board of Education is in agreement: it's time to take a stance on charter expansion with the district's boundaries.
Credit Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

"We recognize as a board the need to create one voice around schools of choice or charters in Kansas City," said Jennifer Wolfsie, kicking off the conversation at the board’s executive session Wednesday evening.

For weeks, the district has been signaling it is ready to compete more aggressively with charters, which enroll more than 40 percent of students within KCPS boundaries.

Pattie Mansur noted that Missouri lawmakers seem committed to charter expansion. 

"It's time we go to them with a targeted ask,” she said, pointing out that creating a more equitable accountability system has been a legislative policy priority of the board for a long time.

District officials want charters labeled "accredited," "provisionally accredited" and "unaccredited," just as traditional public schools are.

For the first time in years, KCPS last fall received an accountability score from the state that would qualify it for full accreditation, although the State Board of Education said it would need to see another year of progress. 

"(Charters) don't have to contend with that," Melissa Robinson pointed out. 

Natalie Lewis urged fellow board members to proceed with caution, although she agreed a policy on charter schools was needed for governance. 

"To get to one voice, I need to hear nine different voices because I value every perspective," Lewis said.

John Fierro advocated for better understanding of the financial risk charters pose since they, too, are public schools eligible for taxpayer funding. 

"When we fall off the cliff, what's it look like?" he wanted to know. 

"Or when do we fall?" Wolfsie asked. 

The board agreed a policy was needed soon and set itself a Labor Day deadline. 

Elle Moxley covers Missouri schools and politics for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.