If you love something, set it free

Charter schools serve almost half of all public school students within KCPS boundaries. Rather than focusing on them as a problem, what would happen if we instead thought of them as an opportunity?

I’ve written a lot in the past year about Kansas City’s growing public charter sector.

I’ve tried to use data, wherever possible, to illuminate our changing public schools landscape. Because I think once we come to terms with charter schools and choice, it opens us up to having much more productive and meaningful conversations about public education in our school district, and what a really good system of schools could look like.

45% of public school students within KCPS boundaries are now in charter schools. So we’re past the point of questioning whether charter schools should exist. They do.

And worrying that charters (and the parents who choose them) are ruining public education doesn’t solve any problems: it doesn’t improve KCPS academic performance, or increase KCPS enrollment. It doesn’t improve the academic performance of charter schools, or make them more integrated. And it doesn’t get us any closer to a system of public schools that serves all students, and serves all students well.

We need to be more solutions-focused.

As we think about public education in Kansas City going forward, I wonder if the charter school model, and the flexibility it provides, might actually be one of the most significant tools we have to keep “public schools public” – and to get families of all colors, backgrounds and incomes invested, together, in our public education system.

Or, put another way, there’s a well-known quote that says, in part:  “If you love something, set it free.” If we hold on too tightly to an idea of what we think public education has to be, or should look like, do we risk losing it altogether?


P.S. Happy birthday to Set the Schools Free! It was around this time last year that I put up my first blog post.  Thank you for reading.



2 thoughts on “If you love something, set it free”

  1. You make a very persuasive case for de-centralizing or “charterizing” the district but I don’t think that’s what the board had in mind when they hired Dr. Bedell. Perhaps they didn’t see the data, or the handwriting on the wall. Have you considered a modification of the demonized CEE-Trust plan?

    1. Cathie, thanks for your comment and suggestion/question. I think there’s a middle path between an all-KCPS and all-charter district – and that there are probably a few different ways to get there. There were some important ideas in the CEE-Trust plan. I’ll explore these, and other ideas, in future posts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *