Kindergarten students
Michael Q. McShane

Over at the Star, Joe Robertson put together a heart-wrenching piece of journalism documenting the struggles of Kansas City families trying to figure out where to send their kids to school. Should they take a chance and participate in a charter school lottery? Should they move to Kansas or another school district?

Kansas City is home to several great public charter schools. As Robertson reports, Crossroads Academy has a waitlist 150 students long.  Academie Lafayette has a 130-student waiting list. Scuola Vita Nuova has a waiting list of over 60 students, the Kauffman School has a waiting list ranging from 10 to 50 depending on the grade, and University Academy has a waiting list of 9 for kindergarten.

The problem in Kansas City is that there simply aren’t enough great schools to go around.  Families with money can hedge their bets by entering the lottery to get into one of the schools I’ve mentioned, and if they lose they can move to a different district or pay for a private school. Parents without those resources cannot.  Those less-fortunate families live within the Kansas City Missouri School District, but they also live in Raytown, Hickman Mills, Center, and in several of the other districts that overlap with the borders of Kansas City. Charter schools are functionally limited to the KCSD boundaries, so students zoned to attend low-performing schools anywhere else are simply out of luck.

Crossroads Academy has a promising expansion plan, and I’m particularly interested in watching the parent-led Citizens of the World charter school that is slated to open next year, but even with that growth, supply is nowhere close to meeting demand.

Here at the Show-Me Institute, we’ve documented the declining enrollment of the KCSD, and these families’ stories continue to make the case for the correct course of action moving forward. Rather than figuring out the best way to apportion a small number of good seats in schools across the city, why don’t we focus our efforts on creating new seats? Expand good charter schools. Help new schools get buildings.  Allow charter schools to open outside of the narrow bounds of KCSD.

Until we take these steps, we can expect to see a constant stream of stories of families struggling to find places for their children. 

About the Author

Michael McShane
Senior Fellow of Education Policy

Mike McShane is Senior Fellow of Education Policy for the Show-Me Institute. He is a former high school teacher and earned his PhD in Education Policy at the University of Arkansas. Before coming to the Show-Me Institute, Mike worked at the American Enterprise Institute as a research fellow.