Kansas City 2016: Our public education landscape is changing

Families living within KCPS boundaries have a growing number of public school options to choose from. Most of these new choices are coming from public charter schools – schools that receive public funding, yet operate independently of the Kansas City Public Schools district.

Some people don’t like charter schools. They argue that charters drain critical resources – both dollars and families – away from our struggling school district, leaving the district to educate an increasingly impoverished and challenging student population.

Others point to charter schools with worse performance records than KCPS as evidence that charters don’t work.

These concerns are real.

But, however you may feel about charters, they’re gaining an increasing foothold within our school district boundaries:  in 2006, public charter schools enrolled 6,428 K-12 students within our district. By the 2015-2016 school year, that number had grown to 10,774 – a 67 percent increase over a decade.

K-12 Enrollment Revised

During this same period, KCPS enrollment decreased by 43 percent:  in 2006, KCPS enrolled 25,766 K-12 students. By 2015-2016 that number had dropped to 14,586 students.

Put another way:  our central school district is shrinking and is gradually being replaced by a growing sector of autonomous, independent public schools.

And our charter sector continues to grow:  in August 2016 four highly-anticipated new charter elementary schools will open their doors, creating more options for Kansas City families; a new charter high school is already slated for opening in 2018.

As a community, we need to adapt our thinking to this new education landscape, and start changing the conversation we’re having to reflect this new reality.

And if we’re serious about saving KCPS, it’s worth asking – what is it about charter schools that parents are responding to? Why are so many families, when given a choice between KCPS and another option, choosing the “other” option to educate their children?


2 thoughts on “Kansas City 2016: Our public education landscape is changing”

  1. Of course there needs to be forces in place to ensure the charter schools are good schools–and the ones not doing right by kids should be shuttered–but this argument is powerful, that parents are responding to something with these new options and that giving parents a real, live choice as to what school their child attends is the ultimate version of actually trusting parents to do what’s best for their kids. We all say we want that, but some let other arguments sway them and instead let zip code / neighborhood (and therefore family income) determine that. Let’s put power in the hands of parents and families. Sound reasoning.

    1. Ken, when I received this back in March I was so excited to receive a comment (and to see that my comment function actually worked) that it didn’t even occur to me to reply. Sorry!
      I agree that parents are telling us something important through the public school choices they’re making. Rather than dismiss this growing number of charter school families on account of their choices, we need to listen to them – and make them part of the conversation on the future of our school system. Thanks for inspiring my most recent post!

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