Springfield, MO

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Opinion: Missouri needs more charter public schools

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The Missouri House of Representatives will soon vote on legislation to expand the geographic reach of charter public schools, and greatly increase their accountability. House Bill 473 is long overdue and would give more children in Missouri access to quality educational options that have made life-changing differences to children nationwide.

Under Missouri law today, charter schools are restricted to St. Louis and Kansas City. That means charters are unavailable to the thousands of children in troubled school districts where the need for alternatives is equally as compelling. These are the districts that are designated as unaccredited or provisionally accredited by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Why should a model that is providing a quality education option for students in St. Louis and Kansas City be denied to students in St. Louis County’s unaccredited Riverview Gardens district or to students in any of the 10 provisionally accredited districts throughout the state? The bill would allow charter public schools to open in these troubled districts immediately and permit districts that have been fully accredited for five consecutive years to open charter schools. Districts could then implement innovative programs, such as subject focuses on math, science or foreign language immersion, which have proven to be effective educational tools in charter schools.

Charters not offering a high-quality education should improve quickly or be shut down. HB 473 greatly increases this accountability on all Missouri charter public schools and their sponsors by allowing the State Board of Education to close a school if it is not meeting the academic performance goals, or others, specified in its charter.

HB 473 is sponsored by Rep. Tishaura Jones, a St. Louis Democrat, and is co-sponsored by several rural Republican legislators and urban Democrats. This bill shows what can happen when politics are put aside for the sake of providing a high-quality education for all Missouri students.

—Earl Simms, director, Children’s Education Council of Missouri[[In-content Ad]]


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