HB 634 offers charter schools


Jadyn Lisenby

Friday, May 12 is the last day of the Missouri legislative session, which means it is the final chance for the Joint Committee on Education to vote House Bill 634 out of committee.
This bill, according to its sponsor, Rep. Rebecca Roeber of District 34, targets ”under-performing schools and injects competition into the education community.”
To Roeber, adding Charter schools could potentially enhance student’s overall test scores and help build the bond between the family and their school, which is why she says her bill adds new opportunities.
“I decided to file this bill to expand charter schools in Missouri,” Roeber said, “because I believe that parents should have a choice in where their children go to school.”
The bill would allow charter schools to open in districts where at least one building meets less than 60 percent of state standards but only if the state fully funds the school formula. Currently charter schools in Missouri are limited to the Kansas City and St. Louis areas, but HB 634 could potentially allow charter schools in the Columbia and Springfield districts, as well.
“This bill would allow charter schools to operate if a school district has a school building that has had a APR rating under 60 in two out of three years,” Roeber said. “Right now if a school has a APR rating under 70 that is deemed provisionally accredited.”
A similar measure, SB 428 sponsored by Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, has been proposed in the Missouri Senate. At its hearing, Columbia Public Schools’ administrators wrote a letter to the legislature stating the district’s opposition to charter school expansion. CPS said if it lost one percent of its students, the district would lose $1.5 million in funding.
CPS District Communications Coordinator Michelle Baumstark said charter schools in this area would increase costs for the school district, government and taxpayers, the parents of the students who may currently send their children to schools with this money instead of paying for a tuition.
“Additionally, fewer than half of the charter schools in Missouri meet basic 2016 performance standards, and 21 existing charter schools in St. Louis and Kansas City School Districts failed,” Baumstark said. “Funding for these failing schools has cost taxpayers more than $260 million.”
Another group, the League of Women Voters, opposes charter school expansion. First vice president of the League of Woman Voters of Columbia-Boone County Sharon Schneeberger said the promise of charter schools hasn’t quite lived up to what it boasts.
“Charter schools have now existed long enough that we have considerable research to use for making decisions about them,” Schneeberger said. “When you look at the quality of charter schools, you find mixed results: some charter schools do an excellent job of educating children, others are less successful than the most substandard traditional public schools.”
Yet another opponent is one of Columbia’s representatives, Rep. Martha Stevens of District 46. She said she, too, does not want to see charter schools expanded in Missouri and voted against HB 634.
“Charter Schools in Missouri are governed by a charter school board. This board is not made up of locally elected citizens yet these individuals are permitted to spend millions of public taxpayer dollars without the public accountability that accompanies a traditional public school board,” she said. “Most existing charter schools are underperforming in Missouri as reported by the Annual Performance Report that the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education releases each year. Between 1999 and 2016 school year, 59 charter schools were established in Missouri. Twenty one of those schools have closed due to academic performance or financial issues. “
Baumstark said the the CPS Board of Education passed a resolution that listed multiple reasons for its opposition to the bill including loss of local control, an increase in overhead and operating costs, a dilution of resources for public schools and that the district would have to spend additional resources to transfer students should a charter school fail.
“Columbia Public Schools remains steadfast in our concern for the financial strain that the expansion of charter schools might place on Columbia Public Schools and public schools across the state,” Baumstark said.