Some parents are praising legislation that would expand charter schools in Missouri, while administrators for traditional public schools are raising concerns they will drain resources.
Republican Rep. Rebecca Roeber, of Lee's Summit, has introduced a bill that would allow charter schools in any city with more than 30,000 residents, the Columbia Missourian reported. Currently, charters are mostly limited to students residing in the Kansas City and St. Louis districts, as well as those in unaccredited school systems.
"I am not against traditional public schools," Roeber said. "However, when they are not working for kids, families should have other options."
During a hearing this past week before the House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education, several parents, teachers and education stakeholders shared emotional testimony about how school choice has opened access to quality education.
Carmen Ward said her son, who has autism and intellectual disabilities, bounced around public and private elementary schools in St. Louis for years. She said it wasn't until he reached fifth grade that Ward found somewhere that met his special educational needs: KIPP, which is short for the Knowledge is Power Program, part of a national nonprofit network of public charter schools.
"His reading has improved beyond my expectations, and I have seen a drastic improvement in his mathematics skills," Ward told the committee.
Among opponents, the chief concern was financial. State funding is based largely on enrollment, so fewer students equal less money.
"When we are faced with charter school expansion down the road, that could take kids away in an unpredictable way that I can't plan for," Kearney school district superintendent Bill Nicely said. "This bill doesn't provide a level playing field for choice to occur in a responsible way."
Rep. Chuck Basye, R-Rocheport, who is the vice chairman of the committee, said he is in favor of the intent behind the bill.
"I'm very supportive of parental choice, whether it be for a public, private or charter school," he said.