In 2020 and 2021, the elected municipal leaders in the 24:1 Municipal Partnership hosted a series of virtual town halls to address the education crisis in the Normandy school district.

“Not Without Us” is the 24:1 Municipal Partnership’s rallying cry to ensure public and charter schools’ governance is locally elected, accountable, and attuned to the needs of every student.

During the town halls, civic leaders and panelists with deep understanding of local education topics shared their position on the current state of education within the district via Zoom and Facebook Live. The community was invited to come together during these meetings to be better informed and build a sense of connection. More than 200 residents attended the town hall on Nov. 19, 2020 and 100 attended on Jan. 27, 2021.

Many residents submitted questions for the 24:1 Municipal Partnership, the Leadership School, and the Normandy Schools Collaborative. This Q&A compiles all of the responses.

In April 2021, two new members were appointed to the Joint Executive Governing Board, bringing the total to seven. In April 2022, voters in the district will elect two members—the first time since 2014 local residents have had a voice in the district’s governance.


Questions about 24:1 Municipal Government Partnership

Q: Is the 24:1 Municipal Partnership opposed to parent choice?

  • To what lengths will the 24:1 go to stop charter schools from coming into the NSC district?
  • What does the MGP want or need from TLS when it comes to assurances that the school will listen to feedback from all community members and taxpayers?

A: The 24:1 Municipal Partnership fully supports any parent who believes an educational option other than the Normandy Schools Collaborative is best for their child. We believe that the children of our community deserve the highest quality public education that prepares them for life, no matter the direction they choose.

Because we believe in our educational sovereignty, we oppose any privately governed charter school that does not afford our community the opportunity for consent over the education of our children as well as the use of our tax dollars.

You can read more about what we believe in the position paper “Not Without Us: The Historic Perspective on the Education Crisis in the Normandy 24:1 Community and Our Battle for Educational Sovereignty.”

—24:1 Municipal Partnership

 

Q: What sacrifices are required of the 24:1 Community for the creation of a charter school like The Leadership School?

A: Currently the community is being asked to sacrifice locally elected school governance and accountability—which we have already ceded with the Normandy Schools Collaborative. We believe this will lead to further fragmentation of the community’s political power, further damage to community-based institutions, and further financial instability to the public school system. Because we believe in our educational sovereignty, we oppose any privately governed charter school that does not afford our community the opportunity for consent over the education of our children as well as the use of our tax dollars.

—24:1 Municipal Partnership

 

Q: How can the community make sure new schools (especially charter schools like The Leadership School) offer students a quality education, instead of opposing them?

A: We as community leaders and all of our residents must support our children and their families in every manner possible to ensure that they can succeed in their educational pursuits at a school of their choice. Ensuring that all of our community’s educational options are high quality and responsive to the voices of the residents will take innovative ideas, steadfast dedication, many additional resources, and extensive networks of support. We welcome all partners and friends who understand and respect our position, the district’s rich history, and the value of educational sovereignty.

—24:1 Municipal Partnership

 

Q: How can the 24:1 Municipal Partnership partner with The Leadership School and/or broker partnerships with The Leadership School and the Normandy Schools Collaborative?

A: We as community leaders and all of our residents must support the Normandy Schools Collaborative and hold them accountable for the individual and collective success of our children and our school district. This support must extend to other education options within the 24:1 footprint as well.

However, while we extend respect and gratitude toward the external parties who have genuine good intentions for our students, we believe that today’s lingering challenges reveal serious external threats from multiple governance layers. Because we believe in our educational sovereignty, we will strive for partnerships with entities that afford our community the opportunity for consent over the education of our children as well as the use of our tax dollars.

—24:1 Municipal Partnership

 

Q: Do members of 24:1 Municipal Partnership have children in the Normandy school district?

A: We are not sure the intent behind this question. Regardless of the answer, the elected leadership of this community has both a moral and financial obligation to work for successful schools. The moral obligation is that all the children of this community have a real and meaningful opportunity for a quality education. The financial obligation is that the community’s tax base is and always will be driven in large part by the quality of the public schools.

—24:1 Municipal Partnership

 

Q: Do members of the 24:1 Municipal Partnership have recommendations for potential board members to help make sure charter schools like The Leadership School are a success for all children?

A: We believe it is premature to offer names at this point in time.

—24:1 Municipal Partnership
 


Questions about Charter Schools

Q: How does a charter school affect the issue of ‘parent choice’?

  • Do parents pay for charter school attendance?
  • Are charter schools a better option for parents?
  • What happens when all the students that are still in a school district are in a disadvantage prior to a new charter school’s arrival?
  • Can Normandy Schools Collaborative and a charter school exist in the same space?
  • What are alternatives to the charter school model?

A: Charter schools are free public schools that operate independently of a school district. They are nonprofit entities that have a contract (or charter) with a sponsoring entity, and they are governed by boards that must comply with the conditions of the charter agreement and performance contract. Unlike public school board members, charter board members are appointed and operate under the same Missouri laws that regulate nonprofit organizations.

Charter schools can operate in all school districts in Missouri. In accredited districts, only the local school board can sponsor a charter school. The Missouri Charter Public School Commission can sponsor charter schools in the Kansas City Public Schools district, the St. Louis Public Schools district, any unaccredited district, and any district that’s been provisionally accredited for three or more years.

Charter schools are open to all students in the areas they serve and may not discriminate, but they can set admission preferences (such as students who live in zipcodes near the school). If they are at full enrollment, they can choose to admit new students by random public lottery.

Charter schools vary in the grades they serve, their educational philosophy, their school culture, and many other factors. This flexibility is one of the main arguments in favor of charter schools. Some charter schools are operated by charter management organizations that are contracted to provide curriculum development, assessment design, professional development, administrative services, teacher recruitment, facility management, and more.

—24:1 Municipal Partnership

 

Q: What is the academic performance of charter schools in Missouri (test scores, etc.)? Is it any better than public school districts’ performance?

A: There are many metrics for measuring performance. The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) website has extensive information available to the public. In aggregate, they look like public schools overall—some are excellent and extraordinary, and some have closed due to poor performance. Charter schools are not performing better than average for large numbers of children, and they’re confronting the same challenges everyone else is confronting, often with fewer resources.

—Mike Jones, former State Board of Education member and Normandy Joint Executive Governing Board member through June 2022, and Constance Rush, Director of Advocacy and Freedom Schools, Deaconess Foundation

 

Q: Why have so many charter schools closed, and what are some things that charter schools are permitted to do that public schools cannot?

A: Of the 64 charter schools that have opened in Missouri since 1999, about 44% have closed. Closure of charter schools in Missouri has occurred for a variety of reasons including poor academic performance, financial distress, or unsafe conditions. Sometimes the charter school boards make the decision to close a charter school because the school is financially insolvent. Other schools have closed because the school did not reach the goals agreed upon with their sponsors, so the sponsor closed them. Others have closed because their sponsor ceased being their sponsor due to poor performance.

Charter schools are held accountable to all the same statewide performance standards (according to the grades they serve) and must participate in the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP testing). They receive funding from the state like other public schools. But rather than being under the jurisdiction of the State Board of Education, they report to their sponsor. DESE paid each sponsor 1.5% of the amount of each charter school’s state and local funding, not to exceed $125,000. Charter schools’ governing boards are appointed rather than elected by the public.

Charter schools can establish criteria for students to attend (for example, a geographic area around the school) and limit the number of students they serve.

—Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE)
 

Q: To what extent have state representatives been involved in the charter school approval process?

A: The charter school approval process does not go through the state legislature. The first step for a prospective charter school is to find a sponsor. Sponsors—often a university or the nonprofit Missouri Charter Public School Commission—are responsible for monitoring student and school performance, compliance with the charter, etc.

After the charter school has been approved by a sponsor, it then applies to the State Board of Education, which can disprove the granting of the charter within 60 days if the application fails to meet the requirements of the law or if the sponsor previously failed to meet its responsibilities.

Charter schools are approved for five-year terms. Sponsors review a comprehensive body of evidence to determine if a charter school should be renewed. If it is convinced the school has been meeting the criteria for renewal, it submits a renewal application to the State Board of Education.

—24:1 Municipal Partnership


Questions about community engagement and next steps

Q: What can the community do to save this district and fix the system?

  • The issue of equity was raised—how do we go from where we are today to ensure that every child has opportunity in the future?

A: We as a community have to put education back on our collective agenda. As a community, we have to quit defending the status quo, because it has never benefited our community. Our current system is broken, and we need to think about how we’re going to redesign it.

2020 was the first year in the United States that the number of black and brown children was more than the number of children who are not. We are entering a space and time where people can no longer deny that our systems treat people differently based on skin color. Equity needs to be the way we do business. It is necessary to create an environment where all children feel safe and can access learning in the way we want them to.

Because of COVID, it is more important than ever to ensure equity in education. The infrastructure to deliver equitable education has not been there for months and months. So we have to come together to think about our policy goals and do our best to advocate for what our children need now. We are called to reassess and pursue the wildest and boldest policy dreams that we can.

—Constance Rush, Director of Advocacy and Freedom Schools, Deaconess Foundation; Dr. Sheila Powell-Walker, vice president of the Ferguson-Florissant School Board and career educator; and Mike Jones, former State Board of Education member
 

Q: How can teachers and community members become more involved?

  • What options do parents have as they wait on the district to improve?
  • What can we do as a community and members of the school district to stop the destruction of our school district?
  • What can parents do to organize against charter schools?

A: The 24:1 Municipal Partnership encourages everyone who lives within the Normandy Schools Collaborative to learn more about Missouri’s public education system. Currently Normandy is provisionally accredited—the second-lowest level in the MO School Improvement Program.

Information about charter schools is available from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education as well as the Missouri Charter Public School Commission.

There are many opportunities to learn more and advocate around the topic of education. For example:

  • The 24:1 Public Policy and Advocacy Council is a public group that meets with elected officials the first Monday of each month. To receive notices of upcoming meetings, contact Makita Hill at mhill@beyondhousing.org.
  • The Joint Executive Governing Board—the state-appointed board that leads the Normandy Schools Collaborative—meets the second Monday of each month. Meetings are held virtually due to COVID this school year. The public may attend via phone or Zoom, and login information is posted online the day of the meeting.
  • Normandy Schools Collaborative hosts parent and community meetings and communicates with families in a variety of ways, from texts and automated phone calls to email newsletters and social media.

The 24:1 Municipal Partnership plans to host additional public meetings with the goal of addressing the current education crisis in the 24:1 Community. Please follow our page on Facebook or check our241.com for updates.

—24:1 Municipal Partnership