As this article by Matt Barnum in Chalkbeat shows, Kansas City did not want to hand its public schools over to the corporate reform movement, and it kicked out the privatizers a few years ago.

But the privatizers are back, with a new name, and a local native-born leader touting the virtues of the “portfolio model” and a “common enrollment application” for public schools and charter schools. The new approach is funded by the privatization-loving Walton Family Foundation and the Kauffman Foundation. OneApp, the common enrollment system is intended to confuse parents about the differences between public schools and charter schools, and give the appearance that they are the same. They are not. Charter schools choose their students; public schools do not. Charter schools may close without warning; public schools do not. Charter schools are not willing to take the students with the greatest needs; public schools are required to do so.

And so far, many education leaders in Kansas City seem to have fallen for the “portfolio model,” which is a stealth way of importing privatization.

The Kansas City superintendent, Mark Befell, is approaching the new bait warily. But the stars are aligning to put Kansas City into the grasp of the privatizers.

Bedell, the district superintendent, says that SchoolSmart may be too focused on creating new schools and expanding successful ones at the expense of helping existing, low-performing schools.

“I think the only concern that I have is their initial focus has been primarily on schools that are emerging, schools that are high performing,” he said. “You want to really move an urban school system like ours, you have a larger share of your schools that are low performing, we need to put resources in those schools.”

But, Bedell said, “Fortunately, [Sufi] listened to that and [SchoolSmart] provided support for me and some of my schools that have been struggling.”

SchoolSmart KC has also promoted the idea of a common enrollment system for district and charter schools.

“Participation in common, unified enrollment systems must also be required so that all families have equal access to schools,” Sufi said in recent testimony to the Missouri state legislature. “Such a system will also promote equity where our least advantaged families have equal access to quality options.”

Bedell is skeptical of this idea.

“Nope, not interested in it,” he said flatly, saying that he believed some charter schools were selectively enrolling and pushing out certain students, which made it difficult to build a positive relationship between the two sectors.

“One of the things that we’re looking to do is go and visit some of the other cities — Denver, Indianapolis, Camden — where the [district–charter] partnerships are working well,” said Bedell. Incidentally, those are three cities often promoted by advocates of the portfolio model.

Meanwhile, some remain wary of who is funding SchoolSmart. In addition to local philanthropies, SchoolSmart identifies the Walton Foundation as one of its core investors. Sufi said Hall, Kaufman, and Walton had together made a 10-year funding commitment of over $50 million.

“Philanthropy can have its own agenda too — that’s OK, there’s nothing wrong with that, but I think everybody just needs to be aware,” said Wolfsie, the Kansas City school board member. “Funders, they have a say what [SchoolSmart KC’s] strategic direction probably will be — otherwise they may not fund.”

If history and experience are guides, charter schools will take the best students, and leave the rest for public schools, which have even fewer resources to educate them.

Both the Walton and Kauffman foundations have been strong supporters of charter schools; Kauffman even founded its own (high-performing) charter school in Kansas City.