The University of Missouri-Kansas City will no longer sponsor its eight Kansas City charter schools in May. Charter Public School Commission Executive Director Robbyn Wahby tells Missourinet the university wants to focus on research and developing human capital.

Photo courtesy of the University of Missouri-Kansas City

“As with everything, when over time, if you don’t stop and re-evaluate and determine whether this is the best use of your talents and resources, you may miss an opportunity,” she says. “I think that’s what the dean was doing. Smartly, the university was thinking ‘We should be doing what we’re designed to do and then partner with the commission to transfer sponsorship to do what they were designed to do’. They’re really not set up as a regulatory body – one to do the oversight of something outside of the university.”

UMKC has been a Missouri charter school sponsor for about 20 years.

“They were a pioneer in Missouri and were one of the two universities that first sponsored charter public schools,” she says. “So, we really owe them a debt of gratitude in Missouri for them starting this work.”

The charter schools sponsored by UMKC are: Brookside Charter, Pathway Academy, Genesis School, University Academy, Allen Village School, Academy for Integrated Arts, Lee A. Tolbert Community Academy and Frontier Schools.

Robbyn Wahby

In 2017, the schools under UMKC’s watch enrolled a combined total of nearly 5,200 students.

Under state law, Missouri charter schools must have a sponsor to operate. When UMKC School of Education Dean Justin Perry first floated the idea around about ending its sponsorship role, he contacted Wahby. She says he wanted to ensure, first and foremost, that the charter schools would have a new sponsor.

“He didn’t want to start this exploration out without knowing that every school would be able to continue without any problems whatsoever,” she says. “We assured him that would be the case. “It move doesn’t really affect the day-to-day for these students. That’s really what’s really important here – for faculty, for staff in the building, for parents and students – there is no change in their life. The charter stays as is, as it transfers to a new sponsor. There shouldn’t be any concern for anyone. That was really why Dean Perry contacted me right from the beginning – to ensure that there would be absolutely no disruption for students.”

The commission is not making the transfer process complicated. The affected schools must simply submit a letter to the commission requesting a transfer of sponsorship to the commission and the date in which it wants to transfer under the commission’s oversight.

The affected schools can choose to apply to a sponsor other than the commission and the commission can simply be their backup plan.

University Academy and the Academy for Integrated Arts have officially transferred from UMKC to the commission.

Wahby says she hasn’t heard anything “recently” from other sponsors considering an exit. She goes on to say that it’s not uncommon for colleges and universities to drop its sponsorship of charter schools because she says it’s part of charter school development nationwide.

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