JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri senators pushing a charter school expansion bill ran into a second filibuster Tuesday.
While supporters of the bill commend charter schools’ ability to help failing school districts educate students, Sen. Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff, filibustered for over two hours Tuesday. His comments echoed the concerns of opponents about the success rate of Missouri’s charter schools and the costs taxpayers would incur as a result of failed charter schools. Libla was joined by several other Republicans and Democrats in filibustering the bill.
Charter schools are publicly-funded schools that are independent and serve as an alternative option for students both inside and outside the district the charter school belongs to. Currently, charter schools can only exist in Kansas City and St. Louis. The bill would allow any city or charter county with a population of 30,000 or more to introduce charter schools.
Opponents of the bill worry about the effect charter schools would have on the resources in the traditional public schools in its district.
Sen. Lauren Arthur, D-Clay County, proposed an amendment Tuesday to allow voters at school board elections to “approve the operation of the charter school in the district.”
“We’re saying that a charter school opening in a school district will have an impact on that district, and if you’re someone that lives in that area ... I think there is a good reason for you to have some say on whether or not a charter school would open in your district,” Arthur said.
But the introduction of charter schools shouldn’t financially hurt traditional public schools if a student leaves for another district. Under the bill, students in a charter school’s district would be given admittance priority, Sen. Bill Eigel, R-St. Charles County, said.
A student from another district attending a charter school will not be counted toward the educational funding formula for the district he or she joins, but the student would still be counted in the formula for the district that loses the student.
Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, proposed an amendment that would remove this open enrollment option from the bill.
Libla came to the floor Tuesday prepared with a folder of statistics about the record of charter schools in Missouri, which he described as “really dismal.” He and Sen. Lincoln Hough, R-Greene County, filibustered together after Hough agreed the charter school expansion “seems like a terrible investment.”
The success rate of Missouri charter schools — those who perform well enough to stay open — is about 67 percent; 33 percent of Missouri’s charter schools have closed between 1999 and 2017, according to data by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Similar bills have come up in the previous several legislative sessions, and they have failed.
The Senate was still filibustering as of 8 p.m., six hours and counting.
Supervising editor is Mark Horvit, email@example.com.