JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Missouri House endorsed legislation Tuesday that would expand the areas where charter schools can be established and change how the state oversees them.
Currently charter schools can only operate only in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas. Under the House legislation, they would be allowed in any unaccredited school district. In districts that have been provisionally accredited, charter schools would be allowed to operate if the district has been on provisional status for at least three years, if local school officials support it or if the charter school sponsor has met state requirements in the past.
In accredited districts, a charter school would be allowed if the local school board sponsored it.
Rep. Tishaura Jones, who proposed the legislation, said expanding charter schools is important because poor schools have caused even low-income families to move away from the center of the state's urban areas.
"These so called 'poor people' have been voting with their feet for years," said Jones, D-St. Louis. "Parents believe that these charter schools give their children the best opportunity for education."
The House must vote on the bill once more before it goes to the Senate. The legislative session ends next month.
Rep. Mike Thomson said he supported expanding charter schools but wants to control their growth in rural areas where some local districts have just enough students to exist. He said that if charter schools were allowed in all the provisionally accredited districts without any limitations, the charter schools could attract so many students that that local district could have trouble continuing to operate.
"I think we have to be careful how we expand charter schools into rural school districts," said Thomson, R-Maryville. "Some of the districts hardly have enough students as it is."
The House measure would allow two-year vocational or technical schools, non-religious charitable organizations and a newly created state commission to sponsor charter schools,
The legislation also adds several new requirements aimed at making sure charter schools provide academic performance that is equal or better than the local school district.
One such provision would require potential charter school sponsors to apply annually to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for permission to sponsor a school. Sponsors also would also have to submit annual reports to the Legislature demonstrating that the schools are meeting state academic standards.
School charters would have to include academic performance goals and procedures for how the charter school could be closed if it failed to meet those goals.
For charter school sponsored by the state commission, the state Board of Education could revoke the charter if those schools fail to meet academic performance goals.
The legislation would require a charter school to close if the state or its sponsor revokes its charter.
Charter Schools bill is HB473