Missouri Senate approves charter school expansion - Affect on public schools unknown

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BY TIM SAMPSON
Missouri News Horizon

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – After a week of contentions education debate in the State Senate, lawmakers have approved two bills aimed at overhauling the way Missouri deals with failing public school districts.

On Thursday, Senators gave final passage to Senate Bill 576, which would allow for the creation of charter schools within accredited school districts.

Currently, Missouri only allows the operation of charter schools in Kansas City and St. Louis, but SB 576 would allow local school boards in accredited school districts to sponsor charter schools, provided that in districts with more than 1,550 students, the enrollment at charter schools does not exceed 35 percent.

The bill would also open up charter school sponsorship opportunities to even more groups in districts that have been provisionally accredited for more than three years. Provisional accreditation is a step above unaccredited.

The charter school expansion legislation passed the Senate by a bi-partisan vote of 31 to 2.

Click here to read the 33 page long bill.

That same day the Senate also passed SB 677, which would remove the mandatory two-year waiting period before the state can take over the administration of an unaccredited district. Instead, the bill would call on the State Board of Education to establish a district-specific date at which the state would take over. That date would be set when the state board makes its initial decision to strip a district of its accreditation.

The vote comes several months after the board of education voted to remove the Kansas City Public School district’s accreditation. The bill passed by a vote of 33 to 1. The state already controls the St. Louis Public School District.

Both education bills now head to the State House of Representatives.

But one of the more hotly contested pieces of education reform legislation failed to come to a vote on Thursday. The chamber could not agree to take a vote on a proposal from Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, to double the amount of time it takes a public school teacher to qualify for tenure from five years to 10. Her bill would also prohibit seniority from being taken into account during teacher lay-offs, instead mandating that teacher performance be the sole deciding factor in lay-offs.