Despite cost concerns, Missouri charter school funding boost still set to move • Missouri Independent

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A week after senators celebrated a compromise to increase funding for charter schools, the proposal’s estimated cost has stalled its progress, at least temporarily.

Before the Senate can vote, The law project should be kicked out of the Senate Committee on Government Accountability and Fiscal Oversight, where the president raised concerns about its cost.

Sen. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield and committee chairman, said the overall costs of the new proposal and their escalation if more charter schools open in the future have raised concerns among some committee members.

“So if we had a proliferation of that,” Hough said of charter schools, “the state is going to be on the hook.”

Hough said if the bill limited spending to current charter schools, “it would make me feel more comfortable, because then I would know what the defined cost really is.”

According to a tax analysis of the Senate proposalstate Department of Education officials estimate changes to charter school funding would initially cost the state an additional $62 million.

It’s a similar point Charlie Shields, president of the Missouri State Board of Education, raised at Tuesday’s board meeting when he questioned whether the bill would ultimately pass this session.

“The charter school fix, as they call it, I’m not convinced the Senate version survives through the process, but it’s also an interesting but very expensive fix,” Shields said. “But there must be a resolution.”

The charter school solution, as they call it, I’m not sure the Senate version survives through the process, but it’s also a nice but very expensive solution.

– Charlie Shields, president of the Missouri State Board of Education

Within days of the bill being put to a vote, supporters were optimistic it was on the horizon.

On Thursday, R-Columbia Majority Leader Caleb Rowden said he expected the compromise unveiled last week to be sent to the House when lawmakers return on Tuesday. From there, it could be forwarded and sent to the governor’s office.

In recent years, charter school supporters have pleaded for lawmakers to “fix the problem” and increase funding for charter schools, which receive less than their traditional public school counterparts due to outdated property values.

Under the new proposal, rather than shifting funds from school districts to charter schools, the money would instead come from the state through an adjustment to the foundation formula, the method by which Missouri calculates aid to schools.

A committee hearing for Hough earlier this week on the bill was canceled. On Thursday afternoon, the bill was due to be heard at next Tuesday’s committee hearing.

“This is a new element of the discussion regarding the charter funding bill, so that’s to be expected,” said Rep. Doug Richey, R-Excelsior Springs and sponsor of the original charter bill. the House, regarding the discussion on the fiscal impact of the bill. “But I’m confident they will be able to find a way to solve this problem.”

Asked about the idea that compromise is an expensive solution, Senator Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester and Senate bill handler, said “it definitely is, it’s probably not my first solution to the problem”.

“I think the underlying bill, as it came to the Senate or came out of the Senate committee, is probably better than this compromise,” Koenig said, “but sometimes you don’t get all that you want in a compromise.”

The proposal unveiled last week also included increased accountability measures for charter schools and additional provisions regarding virtual education.

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According to the tax analysis of the bill, the Ministry of Elementary and Secondary Education provides that by not requiring students to be enrolled in a public school for one semester before participating in the virtual education program of the State, private or home school students, “could avail of this program without ever having to attend a public school.

The impact on the state foundation formula would depend on the number of students participating, with estimated costs ranging from $6.4 million for 1,000 students to $63.75 million for 10,000 students.

The charter funding change would currently only affect St. Louis and Kansas City, which are the only areas where charter schools operate.

Matt Davis, chair of the St. Louis Public Schools Board, said the district “vehemently” opposes the redistribution of district funds to charter schools.

“There’s a whole list of things that if we lose that funding, we’re going to be in a tough spot, ‘Well, what are we going to cut,'” Davis told the State Board of Education on Tuesday. “And nothing should be cut, everything should be increased.”

According to the original proposal, St. Louis Public Schools and Kansas City Public Schools would lose an estimated $18 million and $8.2 million in funding, respectively.

But as part of the compromise they don’t, a point Ben Conover, an organizer for Solidarity with SLPS, a volunteer-run advocacy group for parents, teachers and allies, said he was glad to see. .

“We’re not very enthusiastic about more money going to charter schools in the compromise,” Conover said, “but we understand that the legislature was probably going to fund more charter schools in some way or another.” of another.”

Davis expressed hope that “this matter will be resolved” with the compromise, but he stressed that the district still plans to ensure that accountability is exercised on taxpayer funds.

“Our concern is with this solution, we also want to make sure that all schools take very seriously the obligation that as public schools we have to educate every child,” Davis said. “We don’t want this to be a situation where schools get the same amount of funding but don’t provide the same number of services.

If passed by the Senate, the bill would then have to be sent back to the House, where lawmakers could either agree to the changes or ask a conference committee to reach a compromise.

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