On Wednesday, the Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS) Board of Education voted to submit an application to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to sponsor a charter school.
Kansas City currently has 25 charter schools, enrolling more than 40 percent of all public school students in the city. Last year, KCPS decided to partner with Academie Lafayette, the French immersion charter school, on a program at Southwest High School. However, none of the existing schools have been sponsored by the district itself. This is the first step in the district becoming a sponsor of charter schools. It will be the second school district in the state to do so—Saint Louis Public Schools sponsors Construction Careers Academy.
Since their inception, charters often have been met with suspicion by public school officials. In Kansas City, it seems that perception is changing as the district recognizes that charter schools may have something traditional public schools need—niche educational opportunities.
Charter schools are independently run and typically have more freedom. This gives them the flexibility to reach students whose needs aren’t being met in the traditional setting. For example, a Pennsylvania public school district sponsored the Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School in 2001. The virtual school now enrolls 3,000 students across the state and grade levels.
The sponsorship of charter schools by traditional public schools is an opportunity public school districts throughout the state should not pass up. It is the competitive advantage to offer more options within one school district. Imagine if a rural or suburban school district sponsored a charter with a science and engineering focus. Perhaps a student who felt his needs weren’t being met in a private school would enroll at the local charter school instead.
Students in any type of district, whether urban or rural, low-income or high-income, need options. Educational partnerships and traditional public school sponsorships have the potential to provide those options.