A bill has been moved forward by Missouri lawmakers that would allow for additional charter schools to open in Jackson and St. Louis counties in addition to expanding transfer options for students currently enrolled in unaccredited schools.
The measure, House Bill 42, passed through both the House and the Senate, although the House vote was so tight that if Governor Jay Nixon rejects it, it may not survive a veto.
Critics of the measure say that if more charter schools are allowed in the area, resources will be taken away from traditional schools. The same sentiments were voiced by a number of school districts that fought the bill in the Kansas City area. “The folks in our county don’t want this,” said Sen. Kiki Curls, a Kansas City Democrat. “They don’t.”
The bill was originally created in an attempt to help the unaccredited Normandy and Riverview Gardens school districts in St. Louis, which are both needing to pay increasing tuition and transportation costs as more of their students are choosing to attend neighborhood districts under the current law.
Last year a similar bill proposed expanding transfer options to include private schools, which the governor said he would veto. This time school choice advocates looked away from the private school idea, instead focusing on charter schools.
Those who support the bill say families who are concerned about the quality of their local school district should be afforded more school choice, writes Joe Robertson for The Kansas City Star.
However, opponents argue that the bill does nothing to fix the transfer law, and could cause academic and financial distress in high-performing districts through the introduction of charter schools in the area.
Current law allows charter schools to open only within the Kansas City and St. Louis school districts and in unaccredited districts, as well as in a contained number of provisionally accredited districts. The new bill would allow charter schools to operate in the rest of Jackson and St. Louis counties, except those districts in Jackson with an enrollment of less than 3,500.
The bill would require the state to strengthen its accreditation process by asking schools to provide a more detailed evaluation of each school. Students would be allowed to transfer out of unaccredited schools, although they would be required to move to a school in the same district, and transportation would no longer be provided.
Students who are currently enrolled in unaccredited schools would only be allowed to move to another district if accredited schools in their own district were all full.