Imagine Schools Inc., which operates two schools in Fort Wayne and two in Indianapolis, is in more trouble in St. Louis, where the state school board will decide next month if the charter schools' Missouri sponsor can continue to authorize charter schools.
If it votes to pull Missouri Baptist University's charter authority, it will effectively shut down four Imagine schools in St. Louis. Two other schools already have been ordered to close.
Elisa Crouch of the St. Louis Post Dispatch writes that the schools could be closed even without state board action if university officials don't see enough progress by spring.
"Missouri Baptist has faced increasing pressure to take action against the Imagine schools, which have posted some of the worst test scores in the city," Crouch writes. "They are run by the Virginia-based Imagine Schools Inc., whose high administrative costs take away from resources for classrooms. In the fall, Mayor Francis Slay called for the schools to close, as did Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro.
"There is a concern at the board level that charter schools, like all public schools, need to be held accountable," said state board member Michael Jones of St. Louis. "If you look at Imagine schools' record over the last five years, the best you could say is it's abysmal."
Missouri Baptist officials complained to the state board that the local charter boards were not cooperating. The school board is responsible for notifying parents at the two schools currently slated for closing, but they have failed to do so.
If you've followed Journal Gazette coverage of Fort Wayne's Imagine Schools, the description of an unresponsive board will sound familiar. The local authorizer, Ball State University, placed Imagine MASTer Academy on probation and demanded changes in the board structure. The Wells Street school and Imagine on Broadway shared common board members.
Imagine's Indiana schools have escaped any serious scrutiny outside of The Journal Gazette's coverage, although Allen County officials have challenged the schools' tax-exempt status. Indiana taxpayers annually spend millions in lease payments for the four Imagine properties, which are owned by a Missouri-based real estate investment trust.