Sponsors are local institutions - like Saint Louis University - with which charter school boards enter into a contractual relationship for oversight of board responsibilities. Sponsors are charged by state law with ensuring that the charter schools meet the student achievement goals and financial and operational standards required by the contracts (or "charters" - hence the term "charter school") made between the charter schools and their sponsors.
In St. Louis, the only entities that may legally serve as charter school sponsors are:
The school board of the St. Louis Public School district;
Public four-year colleges or universities with an approved teacher education program that meets regional or national standards of accreditation;
Community colleges located within the St. Louis Public School District;
Private four-year colleges or universities with an enrollment of at least one thousand students, with its primary campus in Missouri, and with an approved teacher preparation program;
Any two-year private vocational or technical school designated as a501(c)(3) nonprofit organization under the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, which is a member of the North Central Association and accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, with its primary campus in Missouri; or
The Missouri charter public school commission created in section 160.425. (RSMo 160-400)
In granting to a school board of trustees a charter to operate a school, the sponsor helps determine the academic and related performance standards by which the charter school will be measured. Sponsors also help establish the assessment methods to be employed to determine compliance with all facets of the governing charter contract. Accordingly, sponsoring institutions have the legal authority and responsibility to demand, and offer professional support for, improvement in any facet of school operation; ultimately, a sponsor can revoke a school's charter, closing down a school that does not meet the requirements of the charter.
In terms of ongoing oversight and evaluation, sponsorship responsibilities include*:
Implementing an accountability system that generates all information needed to assess school performance
Monitoring compliance requirements, including academic, organizational, financial, statutory and regulatory requirements.
Articulating consequences for failing to meet compliance requirements
Providing clear, adequate and evidence-based notice of problems
Providing professional development assistance
Making decisions about whether and how to intervene in school operations, including decisions regarding the suspension, revocation and/or non-renewal of the charter contract
The Missouri State Board of Education is legally responsible for the performance of the sponsor. The Board may demand remediation of sponsorship activities, or may suspend or rescind sponsorship.
* Adapted from Principles for Quality School Authorizing published by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, 2007