Updated: Nov 13
In this blog post, we delve into an enlightening conversation with Pastor Wade Moore, the founder of Urban Preparatory Academy in Wichita, Kansas. Urban Preparatory Academy is a private K-8 school that predominantly serves students from low-income backgrounds through the state's low-income tax credit scholarship program. Pastor Moore has long been an advocate for expanding educational choice programs, aiming to provide more children with access to the best educational opportunities tailored to their needs. Recently, Urban Prep was recognized as a finalist for the prestigious Yass Prize, winning a $500,000 grant to establish a second location in the Wichita area. Join us as we explore Pastor Moore's personal journey, his vision for Urban Prep, and the impact of educational choice programs on the lives of students and families.
Childhood and Educational Journey
Pastor Moore shares his childhood experiences growing up in a rural Arkansas community. Raised in a large, low-income family, his exposure to education was primarily limited to public schools. Despite facing discouragement from a high school counselor who doubted his ability to attend college, Pastor Moore's determination remained unshaken. He eventually joined the military after high school, where he encountered diverse educational opportunities for children. Witnessing the limitations of the public school system and inspired by a church school, Pastor Moore nurtured a vision to establish his own school.
Founding Urban Preparatory Academy
Pastor Moore discusses the evolution of his vision and the pivotal moment that led to the establishment of Urban Preparatory Academy. His experience working in a public school system exposed the academic struggles faced by many students, including inadequate handwriting and spelling skills. Interactions with concerned parents further highlighted the need for change in education. Motivated by these experiences, Pastor Moore embarked on the journey of creating a school that would address these challenges.
Tax Credit Scholarship Program
When Urban Prep initially opened in 2014, Kansas had no education choice laws in place. Pastor Moore personally funded the school's operations during its early stages. However, with the introduction of the tax credit scholarship for low-income students in 2015, Urban Prep saw a significant increase in enrollment. The program provided eligible students with up to $8,000 per year, empowering them to choose a private school education. Over the years, the program expanded to include students from any school in Kansas, resulting in the steady growth of Urban Prep and the development of a waiting list.
Why Families Choose Urban Preparatory Academy
Pastor Moore emphasizes the importance of creating a nurturing and supportive environment at Urban Prep. Families are drawn to the school due to the culture of love, trust, and individualized attention provided to each student. Urban Prep aims to understand the goals and aspirations of every child and collaborates closely with parents to ensure their children receive the care and education they deserve. Success at Urban Prep is measured not only academically but also by the personal growth and transformation of students, as well as positive feedback from parents.
Measuring Success and Impact
Success at Urban Prep is multifaceted, encompassing academic progress, character development, and overall well-being. Academic assessments are conducted upon enrollment and regularly throughout the year to track each student's progress. However, success goes beyond grades and test scores. Positive changes in students' attitudes, confidence, and engagement are equally valued. Pastor Moore believes that success is achieved when parents witness their children's remarkable transformations and express gratitude for Urban Prep's impact on their lives.
The Prospects of School Choice in Kansas
While Urban Prep continues to thrive and expand, the prospects of school choice in Kansas face certain challenges. Pastor Moore acknowledges that the state's education system predominantly revolves around traditional public schools, making it less receptive to alternative options. However, he remains optimistic about the potential for change and the positive impact that educational choice programs can have on students and families.
Pastor Moore believes that expanding educational choice programs can lead to increased competition and innovation within the education system. Offering parents and students more options, such as charter schools, private schools, or scholarship programs, creates a healthy environment where schools are incentivized to improve and meet the diverse needs of students.
One of the main hurdles to implementing school choice programs in Kansas is the resistance from some educational stakeholders who argue that diverting resources away from public schools may have negative consequences. However, Pastor Moore asserts that school choice programs can actually complement public schools rather than compete with them. Introducing competition and choice, it can encourage public schools to strive for excellence and better serve their students.
Pastor Moore highlights the importance of parental empowerment in the education decision-making process. School choice programs allow parents to have a greater say in their child's education by providing them with options that align with their values, aspirations, and educational priorities. This, in turn, fosters a sense of ownership and engagement from parents, leading to increased student success and satisfaction.
Furthermore, educational choice programs have the potential to address the achievement gap and provide equal opportunities for all students, regardless of their socioeconomic background. Low-income families, in particular, benefit from these programs as they can access high-quality education that would otherwise be financially out of reach. By breaking down the barriers of income and zip code, school choice programs promote equity and empower students to reach their full potential.
Pastor Moore encourages policymakers and educational leaders in Kansas to consider the long-term benefits of embracing school choice programs. By creating a supportive legislative and regulatory framework, the state can foster an environment where innovative educational models can flourish and empower families with more options. He believes that collaboration between public, private, and charter schools can lead to a holistic and comprehensive education system that meets the unique needs of every student.
While the prospects of school choice in Kansas face challenges, Pastor Wade Moore remains optimistic about the potential benefits that such programs can bring. By expanding educational choice options, Kansas can create a more competitive, innovative, and equitable education system. The success and impact of Urban Preparatory Academy serve as a testament to the transformative power of educational choice programs and the positive difference they can make in the lives of students and families.
Listen to the Podcast here.