Why Sponsor a Public Charter School?
Saint Louis University's commitment to urban community education is manifested in the involvement of its students, faculty and staff in various forms of public schooling.
The University has an extensive history of collaboration with St. Louis' public schools, and continually seeks to assist the St. Louis Public School District, neighboring public school districts, the City of St. Louis and the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education as appropriate to advance student learning. Toward that goal the University has committed to sponsorship of selected public charter schools.
As a research institution, the University is committed to the concept of charter schools as laboratories of innovation to discern what can work best in public education, and how all educational sectors can benefit from such innovation. The primary interest of SLU's Office of Charter School Sponsorship is leveraging our strengths as a premier research university to develop new models for public education. It is within this context that we approach sponsorship of new schools, assess our current schools' board of directors and each school's performance. While this does not preclude the importance of charter schools existing to provide high quality choice in St. Louis, our sponsorship approach is rooted in the University's commitment to support innovation and experimentation within education to benefit the entire system.
Community Leadership Through Sponsorship
The success of a charter school - and, therefore, the successes of its students - is closely tied to the integrity of the sponsor and quality of sponsor oversight. As a leader in the education and certification of St. Louis' teachers and administrators, and as a comprehensive research institution committed to empirically-based improvement efforts in urban public education, Saint Louis University is uniquely poised to serve the St. Louis community as a sponsor.
Serving as a sponsor further engages the University's faculty, staff and students in the St. Louis community, and further evidences the University's leadership commitment to public schooling, innovation in education and community development.
Scope of Sponsorship
While the need for high-performing public schools is significant, Saint Louis University recognizes that its role as a sponsor of charter schools is both supported and bounded by its institutional mission as well as human and financial resources.
Accordingly, faculty and staff have focused their efforts on sponsorship of a very small number of schools whose leadership, missions and curricula present a "good fit" with the people and programs of the University. Sponsored schools are characterized by:
an educational mission consistent with Saint Louis University's mission and values
an overarching organizational purpose and educational plan (curriculum, pedagogy, administration, etc.) that embodies the University's commitment to charter schools for the purpose of advancing a new educational model or innovation within the current public school landscape.
a rigorous curriculum design responsive to the school's mission and the needs of the community
a strong local board of trustees (non-profit), formed in response to demonstrated local need
a location close to campus to meet the distinct needs of students residing in neighborhoods near and adjacent to the University
opportunities for University faculty, staff and student involvement throughout its operations
These parameters exclude a majority of charter school applicants; the University is not seeking to sponsor a vast network of charter schools.
Financial Implications of Sponsorship
Missouri's charter school laws provide that "the expenses associated with sponsorship of charter schools" be reimbursed to sponsors on a per-student basis, up to an annual maximum amount (RSMo 160-400). Currently, state funding does not fully cover the costs of SLU's sponsorship activities; regardless, state law requires that no less than 90% of all state funding allotted to sponsors be expended directly on sponsorship activities.