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Hundreds of Missouri public charter school students, parents, and school leaders filled the capitol building this week to rally for the need to expand and equitably fund charter schools in the state.
One key message, and a legislative priority for charter schools this year, is to “fix the glitch” in state funding formulas that result in public charter school students getting about $1,000 less in funding per student than their traditional district counterparts.
“I know we as educators and parents, we can’t solve all the ills of society but providing equitable funding is something that we can do,” said Rochelle Bates, Parent Coordinator at Confluence Academy, explaining that equitable funding could help charter schools expand services they provide for their students and provide an even better education.
“We are asking for all the schools to be funded so we know our kids are receiving a fair share of resources,” said charter school parent Christy Moreno. “As a taxpayer, as a parent, and as a constituent of Kansas City, Missouri, my children deserve high-quality education and have a right to receive the same funding that traditional public school children received. My children are not a zip code.”
Moreno said that she was thrilled with the open and inviting atmosphere at her children’s school, Crossroads Charter Schools. “Now, we know there’s no such thing as a one size fits all in education. Which is why we need the freedom to find the school the fits are children’s needs,” she said. “Charter schools focus on building a strong sense of community where my children will be immersed in and interact with a thriving downtown business district.”
Several state legislators agreed, vowing to fight for charter school issues this year.
Rep. Michael O’Donnell, who has taken up the fight for charter school expansion after the death of Rep. Rebecca Roeber earlier this year, said that his focus was providing quality education for children, not preserving outdated institutions.
“I’m an unlikely choice to carry this legislation,” he said, noting that his family had had great success in traditional public schools. “ A guy with my world view could easily think public education really works for everyone.”
But he said experience as an intelligence officer had taught him to challenge easy assumptions.
“A lot of people tell me that charter schools aren’t the answer,” he said when talking about the need to improve education outcomes in Missouri. “That statement comes from someone who is essentially protecting an institution and it sounds self-serving.”
Sen. Jamilah Nasheed said that public charter schools were essential to improving the lives of children in the St. Louis area.
“Nothing is more important than our children,” she said. “We want our children to succeed and that begins with a quality education. The ducation our children receive today directly impacts their future tomorrow. But many students are being pushed through the system with nothing to show for it,” she added. “They leave our educational system without the skills needed to survive in today’s society. If you don’t educate them, you’re going to incarcerate them.”
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