A New School and Governance Model for the New School Year in Kansas City
In just a few weeks, a new public charter school is opening in Kansas City. The Kansas City Neighborhood Academy will be the first of its kind, operating as a partnership between a non-profit organization (the Urban Neighborhood Initiative, or UNI) and the Kansas City Public Schools. UNI will operate the school and KCPS will be the sponsor, overseeing the progress of the school and holding its leadership accountable for performance.
The effort has not been without controversy. Some have argued that a school district that struggles so mightily to provide a basic level of education to its students should not expand its portfolio or take on new initiatives until it has its core functions under control. I am certainly sympathetic to that argument.
However, ultimately I think KCNA is an interesting experiment in educational governance that is worth giving a shot. My colleagues and I here at the Show-Me Institute have argued for years that schools are more likely to succeed when school districts take a step back from trying to fund, regulate, and operate schools and leave the day-to-day education of children to independent, autonomous organizations. By focusing simply on funding and regulating schools, school districts can limit themselves to what they are able to do well. That is what KCPS appears to be trying here.
Should KCNA be a success, it will offer an alternative to the traditional district–school relationship, one that can provide more autonomy for educators and more choices and better options for students. It has the opportunity to be a win–win.
I’ll be following KCNA’s progress and will report back when we learn more!