Possible changes in the teacher retirement system and the expansion of charter schools dominated a legislative forum on education issues held Tuesday.

Legislators Rep. Chuck Bayse, R-Rocheport, Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia and Rep. Cheri Toalson Reisch, R-Hallsville attended the panel hosted by the Boone County Unit for the Missouri State Teachers Association and Public School Personnel. 

The issue of expanding charter schools prompted differences of opinion among the panelists. Currently, Kansas City and St. Louis are the only areas in the state where charter schools are allowed. Reisch, however, wants that to change.

Reisch has not always been supportive of the expansion of charter schools. After receiving calls from parents about school clubs that advocated for the LGBTQ+ community, she said she changed her mind.

"Is that teaching reading, writing and arithmetic?" Reisch asked.

Basye said that he had supported the expansion of charter schools in the past, and that he would continue to do so. The expansion of charter schools would provide parents with alternative options if they are not content with the schools in their district, he said.

"There are some that are doing very poorly, but there are many that are doing very well,"  Basye said. "I believe parents should be given as many options as possible."

Even though Basye agreed that charter schools should expand, he said he is still an advocate for public school districts.

"I'm a product of public school, and my children went to public school," said Basye. "I support all public education."

Kendrick, however, said that he did not support the expansion of charter schools. As an alternative to charter schools, he said that lottery schools would function in a similar fashion.

Lottery schools allow any student within the school district to apply for admission. After the application is accepted, students are picked at random for a spot in the school they applied for through a drawing.

"We need to make sure, as a state, that we provide them with more resources and more potential sources for lottery schools within their district," Kendrick said.

Charter school opponents note that public funding for students attending charter schools results in less funding for school districts, which in turn weakens the overall education system for children in low-income areas. With less funding, schools would not be able to keep up with educational programming they currently have.

"The track record has proved that charter schools do not operate in the state at a functional level in most cases," Kendrick said.

Moderator Carole Kennedy began the event by asking if the representatives were in favor of the current retirement plan called The Public School Retirement System of Missouri (PSRS). PSRS offers benefits to public school teachers and other employees.

While Reisch said, "I do not have a vast opinion on this right now," because she said she did not know the details of the issue, Kendrick said that the retirement plan should stay the way it is.

"PSRS is in fantastic shape," Kendrick said. "It is a robust program and it is well funded." 

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