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Public Charter School Sponsorships

Saint Louis University sponsors four charter school systems: City Garden Montessori Charter School in the city of St. Louis and Académie Lafayette, Frontier Schools, and Hope Leadership Academy in Kansas City. Sponsorship responsibilities are directed and overseen by the SLU School of Education in conjunction with faculty and staff from throughout the University.

For details on SLU's sponsorship initiative, click on the links below.

Commitment to Urban Community Education

Echoing the disciplinary and methodological diversity evidenced and valued by its faculty, Saint Louis University embraces and seeks to serve the children of St. Louis, Kansas City, and across Missouri in the multiple educational settings and formats available throughout the area.

We recognize that no one educational method or system is best for all students, and that the breadth of schooling options remains one of St. Louis' and Kansas City's greatest strengths. We champion student learning and development first and foremost, and we support efforts across the educational spectrum that best enable students to reach their full potential:

Public Education

The University has an extensive history of collaboration with public school districts in Missouri. We seek to expand our involvement in public schooling in all of its forms - traditional, magnet, alternative, and charter schools -- throughout the state of Missouri.

Private Education

Independent, non-parochial educational institutions serve a significant portion of Missouri's students, especially in urban settings. The diverse funding and organizational structures of these institutions, as well as their diverse curricula, often serve as examples of innovation and experimentation from which all educators and community members can learn.

Parochial Education

Anchored by one of the largest Catholic school systems in the nation, parochial education in St. Louis features schools rooted in many faiths and educational visions. The University seeks to expand its curricular and co-curricular offerings to prepare even more students for a full range of faculty and staff roles throughout parochial education systems.

Across these diverse educational environments, Saint Louis University endeavors to engage a broad range of its students, faculty and staff. There are obvious, direct connections between Missouri's schools and the University's teacher- and administrator-certification programs; we seek to capitalize on those connections for the benefit of students and schools, as well as for future generations of teachers and school leaders.

But in both conceptualizing and implementing a comprehensive vision for the advancement of K-12 schooling, the University favors an interdisciplinary approach respecting the reality that education in the schools both complements and is dependent upon a range of social, cultural, political and economic forces. And as a major research university recognized at the undergraduate and graduate levels for excellence throughout its colleges, schools and departments, Saint Louis University serves as a multi-faceted, interdisciplinary resource for school and community development.

The following administrative departments and academic units contribute to the University's collaborative efforts with public, private and parochial schools:

Administrative Units

  • Diversity and Innovative Community Engagement
  • School of Medicine Multicultural Affairs
  • Office of Admission
  • Student Development
  • Pre-College, Access, and TRIO Programs
  • Academic Affairs

Academic Units

  • School of Education
  • College of Arts and Sciences
  • Doisy College of Health Sciences
  • School of Business
  • School of Medicine
  • Center for Advanced Dental Education

Through over 40 initiatives, University faculty, staff, and students work with faculty, staff, and students in schools to improve curriculum, instruction, and administration; mentor and tutor children; offer health and wellness programming; provide counseling and other support for children and families in need; and deliver a host of related community-based programs and services.

These initiatives are augmented by faculty research efforts that capitalize on the curricular, organizational, economic and cultural breadth of Missouri's schools for advanced, comparative research in urban community education.

What are Charter Schools?

First and foremost, charter schools are public schools. They are funded by the same tax dollars as "traditional" public schools. Those funds are allocated on a per-student-enrolled basis, as well. And, like "traditional" public schools, to be eligible for those funds charter schools must adhere to all state and federal laws governing public education. Charter schools cannot charge tuition or set admission standards, and they must be non-sectarian in all activities.

However, to encourage innovation in faculty development, curriculum development, pedagogy, administration and governance, and performance assessment, charter schools are free from many state and local regulations that traditional public school districts must follow.

Although still public schools, most charter schools are operated not by traditional public school districts but by independent, non-profit (501(c)(3)) school boards of trustees. The school boards are responsible for oversight of all school operations. Those boards are, in turn, responsible to their "sponsors" (see "What is a Charter School Sponsor?").

Charter Schools Cannot Charge Tuition

Like all public schools, charter schools are free to all students. The only fees that can be charged are those that "traditional" public schools may also charge per state law.

Charter Schools Cannot Set Admission Requirements

Charter schools are prohibited by law from requiring an admission test, or setting any admission requirement. Charter schools absolutely cannot "take the cream of the crop" — the students with top academic backgrounds, artistic backgrounds, etc. By law, all charter schools must accept whoever requests to enroll, regardless of academic ability, disability status, etc. The only public schools in Missouri with the authority to set admission standards and accept only "top-notch" students are district-operated magnet schools.

Charter schools may establish geographic boundaries from which to accept students, similar to the school boundaries established by "traditional" schools comprising a multi-school district. But unlike "traditional" public schools, charter schools can establish such boundaries only if "such preferences do not result in the establishment of racially or socioeconomically isolated schools and provided such preferences conform to policies and guidelines established by the state board of education" (RSMo 160-410). This legal restriction is a safeguard against any sort of enrollment profiling.

Per state law, once maximum enrollment at a school is met, all additional applicants are placed on a waiting list; when a seat opens up, a student on the waiting list is chosen by lottery, so all on the list have an equal chance of gaining that seat (as with "traditional" public schools, exceptions for siblings of currently-enrolled students apply).

Charter schools must provide special education and ESL instruction and services, just as all other public schools are required to do.

What is a Charter School Sponsor?

Sponsors are local institutions — such as Saint Louis University — that enter a contractual relationship with charter school boards for oversight of board responsibilities. Sponsors are charged by state law with ensuring that the charter schools meet 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 Missouri, the only entities that may legally serve as charter school sponsors are:

  • The school board of a 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 a public school district
  • Private four-year colleges or universities with an enrollment of at least 1,000 students, with its primary campus in Missouri, and with an approved teacher preparation program
  • Any two-year private vocational or technical school designated as a 501(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
  • 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

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 assists 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 Public Charter School Partnership 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 school's board of directors and the school's performance. While this does not preclude the importance of charter schools existing to provide high-quality choice in St. Louis and Kansas City, 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 Missouri 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 and Kansas City communities as a sponsor.

Serving as a sponsor further engages the University's faculty, staff, and students in the St. Louis and Kansas City communities, 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
  • 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 percent of all state funding allotted to sponsors be expended directly on sponsorship activities.

Impact of Charter Schools on Other St. Louis Area Schools

The presence of charter schools in an area such as St. Louis impacts existing schools/school systems in several ways. At the heart of the rationale for the legislation authorizing charters schools is the hope that the innovations successfully employed at charter schools will positively influence the educational design and operations of existing charter and non-charter schools alike.

As a major research institution, Saint Louis University has the potential to capitalize on its role as a sponsor to initiate a research agenda that will inform future policy and practice throughout the urban education landscape.

From an enrollment standpoint, many students who attend area charter schools are students who might otherwise attend "traditional" public school; Catholic or other sectarian private school; or an independent private school.

To strengthen and advance the educational programs and operations at those schools in the face of continually shifting enrollment patterns, Saint Louis University seeks to enhance its partnerships with the SLPS District, neighboring suburban public school districts, the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis, and other school operators throughout the region.

Ultimately, we believe that cooperative strategic planning amongst those educating the children of St. Louis will manifest itself in more options for better schools in both the public and private educational sectors.

Toward that end, the University is committed to:

  • Maintaining and expanding many of the current partnerships between Saint Louis University and numerous public and private schools throughout the Metro area
  • Seeking new partnerships benefiting the education of public and private school students, as well as the professional development of their teachers and administrators
  • Communicating regularly with staff at area schools regarding the current state and future scope of the University's charter school sponsorship initiatives
  • Encouraging and facilitating dialogue and cooperation among all area charter school boards/sponsors, area public school districts, the Archdiocese of St. Louis, and other area schools.
  • Offering institutional expertise to area educators and administrators to assist them in strategic planning in the context of the expanding landscape of schooling options
Who is Involved in Sponsorship Activities?

The Office of Public Charter School Partnerships, under the supervision of the School of Education's Dean, is responsible for coordination and oversight of sponsorship.

If you are interested in learning more or getting involved in Saint Louis University's sponsorship of charter schools, contact Alexandra Boyd, executive director of public charter school partnerships, at 314-977-1975 or

Charter School Sponsorship Faculty Grant Program


Saint Louis 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 public charter schools. The University sponsors the City Garden Montessori Charter School in St. Louis and Académie Lafayette, Frontier Schools, and Hope Leadership Academy in Kansas City.

Program Description

The purpose of the Charter School Sponsorship Faculty Grant Program is to provide the opportunity for faculty to conduct research to further scholarship, professional practice, or policy in the field of public education, with a particular emphasis on charter schools or SLU's sponsored charter schools.


All full-time tenured, tenure-track, and non-tenure-track faculty members with active research programs are eligible to apply. Proposals must be approved by the chair of the applicant's department and their dean/director; applicants are therefore strongly encouraged to consult with their unit administrators before developing proposals. While it is anticipated that most applications will be from individual faculty members, joint proposals — particularly those engaging faculty from different departments/colleges/schools — will also be considered and are encouraged.

Anticipated Time Commitment

Each grant will be awarded for a period of one academic term (typically the fall or spring semester), although longer-term projects may be considered; awards extending into a summer term (for analysis of data collected during the school year, for example) may be considered. The research period should generally coincide with the start and end dates of the award term. The workload for the research is expected to be equivalent to teaching one three-credit academic course (see the Budget section below).

Proposal Requirements

Grant proposals should be no more than ten pages long and should include the following elements:

  • Cover page with name, title, academic unit and contact information
  • The research problem/question to be addressed
  • An explanation of the importance of the research activity within the field of public education
  • An explanation of the research design or methodology
  • Specific objectives and anticipated outcomes, both short and long-term
  • A description of the research-specific qualifications of the researcher(s)
  • Letter of support from chair and dean/director

Selection Criteria

The following criteria will guide the selection of proposals: (1) potential impact on the community, (2) the likelihood that the proposed project will make an important scholarly contribution, (3) an applicant's demonstrated expertise, and (4) a feasible work plan, (5) the support of faculty and staff of the school, (6) the availability of the school's students, faculty and staff as needed.


Awardees will be granted a release from three credit hours of teaching in each academic term in which the grant is awarded. Funding will be provided by the School of Education to the awardee's academic unit equal to the amount of a) the salary and fringe benefits (if any) of an adjunct faculty member or b) a standard course overload stipend during each award term (typically $3,500 per course). In lieu of direct compensation, applicants who are granted awards for research into a summer term or who serve in an administrative capacity will receive an equivalent amount of funding for the faculty member's travel or professional development account. Awards for research projects requiring IRB approval will only be disbursed following the submission of IRB approval documentation to the School of Education.

Regardless of the grant term, it is expected that the awardee's department will continue to fully support the faculty member for office space, copying, telephone, postage, office supplies, software, database searches, and other like expenses. Special requests for any additional, research-related funding should be included as part of the proposal.

Awardee's Accountability

Within one month of the end of the award term, the awardee must submit a full report addressing the research conducted, research objectives met, publication results, etc., to the School of Education. The awardee is responsible for completing all of the short-term objectives specified in the proposal by the end of the grant. Any requests for extensions to complete short-term objectives must be approved by the School of Education before the grant period has expired. Awardees should report additional outcomes resulting from the grant to the School of Education if they occur after the progress report has been submitted.

Application Timeline

Proposals are accepted on a year-round basis. However, applicants should plan their proposal submissions with their supervisors well in advance of the proposed grant term. The ability of the awardee's academic unit to cover the course release specified above will impact award decisions.

How to Apply

Submit proposals electronically (preferably in a Word or PDF file) to the School of Education. For further information, contact Alexandra Boyd, executive director of public charter school partnerships, at 314-977-1975 or

City Garden Montessori Charter School – SLU Evaluation

With the support of the Policy Research in Missouri Education (PRiME) Center at Saint Louis University’s School of Education, SLU conducts regular evaluations of its sponsored charter schools. For the most recent evaluation of City Garden Montessori School, click here.

NOTE: Due to the comprehensive impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on every facet of City Garden’s operations, SLU opted not to conduct a formal evaluation for the 2020-2021 academic year. SLU will conduct an annual evaluation of the 2021-22 academic year via our standard evaluation protocol; the final evaluation report will be published here when complete and after having been presented publicly at a City Garden Board of Directors meeting.

SLU's evaluations for Académie Lafayette and Hope Leadership Academy for the 2022-2023 academic year will be available in the fall of 2023 after having been presented to their respective Board of Directors at a public meeting.

SLU's evaluation for Frontier Schools for the 2023-2024 academic year will be available in the fall of 2024 after having been presented to their Board of Directors at a public meeting.

New Charter School Applicant Information

Individuals or organizations interested in Saint Louis University’s sponsorship of a new charter school should take the following steps:

  1. To have an initial conversation addressing your interest in SLU’s sponsorship, contact Alexandra Boyd, executive director of public charter school partnerships in the School of Education, at 314-977-1975 or  Or call the School of Education’s Office of the Dean at 314-977-3292.
  2. If, following that conversation, the applicant is interested in submitting a prospectus, access the prospectus form here.
  3. If after reviewing the Prospectus SLU invites you to submit a full application, access the application form here.