Controversial Plan for KC Schools Due Monday

(AP) – A private education reform group is preparing to release its recommendations for turning around Missouri’s unaccredited school systems, even as debate swirls over whether the consultant was appropriately awarded the contract.

The Cities for Education Entrepreneurship Trust, or CEE-Trust, (AP) – A private education reform group is preparing to release its recommendations for turning around Missouri’s unaccredited school systems, even as debate swirls over whether the consultant was appropriately awarded the contract.

The Cities for Education Entrepreneurship Trust, or CEE-Trust, has been tasked with coming up with ideas that could be implemented in the Kansas City school district and potentially also in Normandy, Riverview Gardens – both in St. Louis County – or any other districts that become unaccredited. CEE-Trust was started by The Mind Trust, an Indianapolis-based education reform nonprofit that operates a charter school incubator.

The firm, which will make its draft recommendations to the State Board of Education on Monday afternoon, was awarded the contract last fall as a new state law took effect giving the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education greater powers to intervene in troubled schools. But Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro received criticism from some lawmakers and community organizations after emails raised questions about the bidding process used to select CEE-Trust.

Key among the concerns is that the state initially sought to hire CEE-Trust without putting the project out to bid, according to emails obtained through an open records request by the Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity , an interfaith social justice organization also known as MORE2, and provided to The Kansas City Star. After the state board balked at a no-bid contract and other entities were invited to submit bids, CEE-Trust still came out the winner, even though its bid was nearly three times higher than the closest competitor.

MORE2 executive director Lora McDonald said her group was among several that called for the state to pull the plug on the study until contract questions were answered. She said she also has concerns because she believes that the soon-to-be unveiled proposal will recommend the expansion of charter schools in unaccredited districts. She noted that the Kaufman Foundation, one of two foundations bankrolling CEE-Trust’s contract, is a charter backer that has opened its own charter school.

“We have gone through this rabbit hole of creating a few high-quality schools, but, who goes to them?” McDonald asked. “It’s the children whose parents are on top of their game, and those kids are going to get a good education because they have parents who are capable of facilitating that, no matter which school they are in. I think what is left behind is kids whose families have the greatest level of need and the least ability to access the privatization movement.”

Following the Star’s story about the emails, two groups of state lawmakers called last month for investigations, and Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich is considering whether to audit the department. been tasked with coming up with ideas that could be implemented in the Kansas City school district and potentially also in Normandy, Riverview Gardens – both in St. Louis County – or any other districts that become unaccredited. CEE-Trust was started by The Mind Trust, an Indianapolis-based education reform nonprofit that operates a charter school incubator.

The firm, which will make its draft recommendations to the State Board of Education on Monday afternoon, was awarded the contract last fall as a new state law took effect giving the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education greater powers to intervene in troubled schools. But Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro received criticism from some lawmakers and community organizations after emails raised questions about the bidding process used to select CEE-Trust.

Key among the concerns is that the state initially sought to hire CEE-Trust without putting the project out to bid, according to emails obtained through an open records request by the Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity , an interfaith social justice organization also known as MORE2, and provided to The Kansas City Star. After the state board balked at a no-bid contract and other entities were invited to submit bids, CEE-Trust still came out the winner, even though its bid was nearly three times higher than the closest competitor.

MORE2 executive director Lora McDonald said her group was among several that called for the state to pull the plug on the study until contract questions were answered. She said she also has concerns because she believes that the soon-to-be unveiled proposal will recommend the expansion of charter schools in unaccredited districts. She noted that the Kaufman Foundation, one of two foundations bankrolling CEE-Trust’s contract, is a charter backer that has opened its own charter school.

“We have gone through this rabbit hole of creating a few high-quality schools, but, who goes to them?” McDonald asked. “It’s the children whose parents are on top of their game, and those kids are going to get a good education because they have parents who are capable of facilitating that, no matter which school they are in. I think what is left behind is kids whose families have the greatest level of need and the least ability to access the privatization movement.”

Following the Star’s story about the emails, two groups of state lawmakers called last month for investigations, and Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich is considering whether to audit the department.

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