Benjamin Banneker Charter Academy in Kansas City is preparing to close its doors this week but school officials aren’t going without a fight. They have sued the State of Missouri in an attempt to stay open and have been in a legal battle with state officials for months.
In December, the University of Central Missouri announced it would no longer sponsor Benjamin Banneker and declined to renew the charter agreement. The move left the charter school with the task of finding another sponsor or face closure on June 30. State law requires public charter schools to have an area sponsor to operate and Benjamin Banneker has failed to find another sponsor.
Vicky Hughes with the University of Central Missouri has told Missourinet that Benjamin Banneker’s consistently low performance levels led to the decision to cut ties with the charter school. The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education use Annual Performance Report (APR) scores to calculate academic achievement in public schools. According to department data, Benjamin Banneker’s Annual APR scores include:
An APR higher than 70% is considered fully accredited and below 50% is unaccredited. The state does not accredit charter schools but sponsors can choose to revoke a charter contract if the sponsor does not feel a charter school is meeting certain benchmarks.
In court documents filed, Benjamin Banneker officials claim an unknown breach of contract against UCM and discrimination by UCM, the Missouri State Board of Education, interim State Education Commissioner Roger Dorson, and board members Charlie Shields, Victor Lenz and Mike Jones. The school’s student population is 99% African-American.
The charter school goes on to say that pursuant to the Charter Schools Act, both the Board and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education are “utterly absent from a sponsor’s decision not to renew a charter”.
The school is seeking to remain open, an unspecified amount in damages and “specific performance”.
Another court hearing on the case is set for Thursday in Cole County Circuit Court.
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