JEFFERSON CITY — State lawmakers continued their efforts to expand charter schools statewide in a Tuesday hearing.
The Missouri Senate Education Committee met to hear proposed legislation, Senate Bill 428, from State Sen. Bill Eigel R-Weldon Spring. This bill is identical to House Bill 634 that was heard in the Missouri House.
Currently, charter schools are only allowed in St. Louis and Kansas City.
Around 20 people came to testify on the charter school bill, many of whom also spoke at the House hearing on the bill in late January.
Lawmakers and testifiers in support of the bill emphasized school choice. Those who spoke in opposition brought up accountability issues with charter schools and the failing charter schools in Missouri.
Dan Clemens, superintendent of North Kansas City School District, spoke in opposition of the bill. He presented a 16-page list of Missouri school rankings from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, highlighting charter schools in yellow. Page one, which included the lowest ranking schools in the state, was almost completely yellow.
"Many times in charter schools, those boards are elected from as far away as out of state," Clemens said. "That local control is something that you guys would support, that we support, but doesn't necessarily happen in charter schools."
He also said the loss of 100 students to charter schools would cost his district $845,000 and student programs would have to be cut to make up for the deficit. This is similar to what would happen in Columbia Public Schools.
Columbia Public Schools wrote a letter to the legislature stating its opposition to charter school expansion. The district said if it lost 1 percent of its students, they would lose $1.5 million in funding.
Several charter school boards and organizations spoke in support of the bill. One of those supporters was Robbyn Wahby, the executive director of the Missouri Charter Public School Commission.
"We were established by this body to support quality statewide expansion of charter public schools," she said, stressing the organization's "focus on quality and accountability."
No action was taken on the bill today, and an identical bill on the House side has already received committee approval.
Supervising editor is Mark Horvit.