JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMOX) – The Missouri House sent the governor a measure that would expand where independent charter schools can operate and who can sponsor them.
Charter schools receive some public school funds, but operate independently of many of the regulations governing public schools.
Currently, charter schools are limited to St. Louis and Kansas City.
The measure passed by the legislature would allow a charter school to operate in any school district that is unaccredited or provisionally accredited.
In addition, more organizations could sponsor charter schools including a local school district or a special state commission created by the law.
The measure also includes provisions for expanded government review of charter schools including the right of the state auditor to audit a charter school.
Supporters argued the state has a responsibility to provide students in failing school districts with an alternative.
“We need to do something to help these kids,” said Rep. Rick Stream, R-St. Louis County. “And we don’t need to wait until next year or the following year or five years or ten years down the road. We need to act now to give these kids a quality education.”
But critics charged the bill did nothing to address the underlying problems facing the unaccredited districts of St. Louis and Kansas City.
“This is a distraction to continue to pull resources,” said Rep. Genise Montecillo, D-St. Louis, during the final House debate Tuesday. “A lot of these kids these kids are homeless in St. Louis city public schools. The homeless rate is extremely high. We have to address those concerns.”
Springfield Democrat Rep. Sara Lampe warned that the bill could open the door for profit-making, out-of-state charter school companies to undercut the financial base of a local district that ran into accreditation problems.
“The only thing that this bill is needed for is to create an opportunity for expansion of a business out into the state into your community, to draw profit off your community and and take away your local community school.”
The measure now goes to Gov. Jay Nixon. In his January State of the State address, Nixon urged lawmakers to impose stronger quality controls over charter schools.