Controversial Plan for KC Schools Due Monday
January 12, 2014

(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.

Missouri Educators Hire Firm to Figure OutWhy KC Schools Struggle
August 21, 2013

(AP) — Perplexed by a pattern of failure, Missouri education officials said Tuesday they have hired a private education reform group to analyze why Kansas City schools keep coming up short and to help devise a turn-around plan for unaccredited schools.

The decision by the State Board of Education comes as it also directed staff to increase oversight of Missouri’s three unaccredited school districts when a new state law takes effect Aug. 28 giving the agency greater powers to intervene in troubled schools.

The $385,000 contract with The Cities for Education Entrepreneurship Trust seeks recommendations by January that could later be implemented in the Kansas City School District and potentially also in Normandy, Riverview Gardens or any other districts that become unaccredited. The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said the contract is being funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Hall Family Foundation in Kansas City.

State Education Board Chairman Peter Herschend said it is imperative for the state to put together a new program for improving unaccredited schools, because he expects additional districts to need help in coming years as Missouri implements new accreditation standards.

“We have to do a better job than we have been able to do in the past,” Herschend said after Tuesday’s board meeting. “It is going to take a different approach – it isn’t a matter of just simply saying, `If we just get some better principles in our buildings, if we just get some better teachers.'”

The CEE Trust describes itself as a network of city foundations, nonprofits and mayor’s offices that supports “education innovation and reform.” It is an initiative of The Mind Trust, based in Indianapolis, which undertook a similar project several years ago focused on its home town school system under a $681,518 contract from the Indiana Department of Education.

In its Missouri bid documents, The Mind Trust said it plans to work with the education policy group Public Impact, based in Chapel Hill, N.C. The bid documents pledge a report that analyzes the conditions that have led to poor results in Kansas City schools and recommendations for how the state should intervene to change its governance and operations.

The Kansas City School District, which has about 16,500 students, lost its state accreditation in January 2012 and is scheduled to lapse June 30, 2014, if it does not show improvements. But a law that takes effect next week allows the state to intervene immediately in unaccredited schools and gives the education agency greater discretion to make changes.

The state board approved a measure Tuesday directing staff to “increase the instructional improvement efforts” in unaccredited districts and to “closely monitor all expenditures, contracts, personnel obligations, legal actions and other operations” of the districts beginning Aug. 29.