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Hope Acad. Corp. v. the Missouri State Bd. of Education

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Third Division

June 9, 2015

HOPE ACADEMY CORP., Appellant,
v.
THE MISSOURI STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION, Respondent

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cole County, Missouri. The Honorable Patricia S. Joyce, Judge.

James W. Tippin, Kansas City, MO, for appellant.

Daniel W. Follett and Rachel S. Flaster, Jefferson City, MO, for respondent.

Before Division Three: Mark D. Pfeiffer, Presiding Judge, Gary D. Witt, Judge and Anthony Rex Gabbert, Judge. All concur.

OPINION

Page 871

Gary D. Witt, J.

The question in this appeal is whether the Missouri State Board of Education (" Board" ) or the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (" DESE" ) (collectively " the Respondents" ) has the authority to review a public university's decision not to renew sponsorship of a charter school. Because the statute at issue does not grant the Board or DESE the authority to review these decisions, Appellant Hope Academy Corporation (" Hope Academy" ) failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. We therefore affirm the trial court's dismissal of the charter school's declaratory judgment action.

Factual and Procedural History[1]

Hope Academy was a public charter school operating in Kansas City and was organized pursuant to the Missouri Charter Schools Act.[2] § § 160.400 to 160.425.[3] As a charter school, Hope Academy was required by statute to have a sponsor charged with oversight of the school, such as a public school district or a four-year university. § 160.400. The University of Missouri-Kansas City (" UMKC" )[4] entered into charter contract with Hope Academy in which it agreed to be a sponsor for a five-year period beginning in 2009 and ending in 2014.

At some point in 2013, Hope Academy submitted an application to UMKC to renew its charter. On December 2, 2013, UMKC informed Hope Academy that upon completing a review of the " application for renewal, the UMKC Charter School Center has made the decision to not continue as your sponsor." The letter stated that the decision was " heavily influenced by the low Missouri Assessment Plan (MAP) scores Hope Academy students have posted for the last four years, therefore identifying Hope Academy as a persistently low achieving school by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education."

In a letter to UMKC, Hope Academy sought review pursuant to the " Renewal Application Appeals Process" and requested the procedural requirements for that " hearing/appeals process." UMKC scheduled an appeal hearing and provided Hope Academy a copy of UMKC's appeals process. UMKC's written appeals process stated in pertinent part:

Procedures for Due Process:

Page 872

When the UMKC is unwilling to take a charter renewal application/performance contract forward to the State Board of Education based on a " transparent and rigorous process that uses comprehensive data to make merit-based renewal decisions" : RSMo 160.400.11(5)
a. The UMKC Charter School Center has placed the charter school on probationary status to allow the implementation of a remedial plan, which may require a change of methodology, a change in leadership, or both, after which, if such plan is unsuccessful, the charter may be revoked (or non-renewed). RSMo 160.405.8(2)
b. The school has failed to meet one or more of the following grounds:
i. failure to meet academic performance standards as set ...

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