By Peter Franzen, Director of Development
The concept of charter schools emerged in the 90’s as a way to put new educational methods and models into practice without the bureaucracy of the traditional public school system. It sounds like a great idea, a more nimble and responsive environment for educating children.
Since then, around the country charter schools opened in some of the most challenged and under-performing districts, eventually including St. Louis and Kansas City. A major problem however with Missouri charter school law is that there is no guidance for what to do with under-performing charter schools. How much time should we give a new school to demonstrate that it can deliver a more effective model for educating children.
Case in point, Imagine Schools, Inc. is a national education management company operating charter schools around the country including six in St. Louis. All six of the Imagine schools are performing worse than the St. Louis Public Schools on the Missouri Assessment Program test. Far worse.
A few months ago Mayor Fancis Slay called for the local sponsor, Missouri Baptist University, to close the Imagine schools. The mayor has no authority to close the schools on his own and it is unclear if the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has authority either.
Today, both the St. Louis Beacon and the Post Dispatch reported that Missouri Baptist University is planning to close the two Imagine schools deemed to be in the worst shape and has put the remaining four on notice that their charters will also be revoked if the schools are unable to make progress.
That’s a step in the right direction when it comes to high quality educational options because a choice between a low performing neighborhood public school and a low performing charter school isn’t much of choice at all.