Michael Q. McShane

Have you ever heard any of these chestnuts?

  • Unlike public schools, charter schools make families apply to them which keeps out kids from less-involved families.
  • Unlike public schools, charter schools require students to maintain a certain GPA to apply (or to stay enrolled).
  • Unlike public schools, charter schools require students to adhere to a conduct code or else get expelled.
  • Unlike public schools, charter schools require parents to come to meetings before they can enroll their children, so that the school can screen out less-involved parents.

These are serious charges. If charter schools can pick and choose their students, are they really public schools that are open to all?

I did some digging on the websites of Kansas City area schools, and some admissions requirements surprised me.

For example, to get into one Kansas City area school, “Applicants must score at or above the 60th percentile on a national standardized reading and math test to be eligible for entrance. Students must also have a record of good citizenship and a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher.”

To get into another, “Students must have a GPA of 2.35 or better, a 90% or better attendance record, and a discipline record that shows appropriate student behavior.”

To get into another, “They must be school ready and able to abide by school policies and expectations as indicated in ‘Behavioral Expectation Student Contract’, which will be distributed upon acceptance.” What’s more, “All new parents will be required to attend a mandatory informational [meeting] before a seat will be offered.”

Can you believe this? Ostensibly public schools are deliberately screening out low-performing students, students with discipline problems, and students with less involved families.

So now is the time I’d bet you’d like me to reveal the culprits. It might surprise you to learn that none of them are charter schools. All five of these examples come from Kansas City Public School Signature Schools, a group of magnet schools. The full list of requirements is on the KCPS website.

According to Rebecca Haessig of the local education blog Set the Schools Free, nearly 26 percent of KCPS students attend one of the seven Signature Schools that place admissions requirements on children or families. They play a huge part of the public school system in Kansas City, yet get very little attention. I wonder why?

For the record, charter schools cannot, by law, place requirements related to previous achievement or behavior on their students. They cannot force parents to attend informational meetings before children are offered a seat. Perhaps they’re the most public schools in town.


About the Author

Michael McShane
Senior Fellow of Education Policy

Mike McShane is Senior Fellow of Education Policy for the Show-Me Institute. He is a former high school teacher and earned his PhD in Education Policy at the University of Arkansas. Before coming to the Show-Me Institute, Mike worked at the American Enterprise Institute as a research fellow.