School choice legislation moving forward in Jefferson City

Feb 9, 2018

A number of school choice-related bills are making their way through committees in both the Missouri House and Senate.

 

Education Savings Accounts (ESA)

In the Senate, Sen. Koenig’s  SB612, which would create a new ESA program in Missouri, has made it out of committee and is on track to be heard on the Senate floor within the next couple of weeks.

A similar bill, Rep. Mark Matthiesen’s HB2188, has been submitted in the House and was heard by the House Ways and Means Committee this week. Rep. Matthiesen’s bill is more expansive than the ESA legislation being considered in the Senate. It would create a $50 million scholarship fund and distributions would be tied to the federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program with awards ranging from $2,000 to $8,000 per year. Children with special needs accepted into the program would automatically qualify for the $8,000 level.

Two CEAM parent advocates testified in favor of the bill, telling legislators that the bill would help provide additional resources for students in foster care and provide better options for families trapped in a region where the traditional public schools are not working for their children. Watch their testimony below:

 

Charter school expansion

Rep. Rebecca Roeber’s HB 2247 was successfully passed out of the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee this week on a tight 7-6 vote following a three-hour hearing last week. Rep. Roeber’s bill would allow charter schools to be created in districts in with any school scored 60 percent or less for two of the three most recent annual reports while also adding stricter accountability standards for both charter schools and their sponsors.

CEAM parent advocate Ryan Tucker was among a large group of people testifying in favor of the bill. Please see his testimony below.

Opponents of the bill argued that charter schools should be assessed the same way as traditional public schools. Currently, charter schools receive an APR score just like district schools but instead of being assigned an accreditation status, they face closure if they are not performing well. Missouri School Board Asociation’s Susan Goldhammer said the state could not apply the same standard to traditional schools.

When pressed on the issue of providing the best education for every student, Normandy Schools Collaborative Superintendent Dr. Charles Pearson told the committee it was preferable for families who’s needs were not being met in his district to relocate instead of the state creating any school choice programs that would impact his district’s budget.

 

Virtual education/Course Access

The Senate is considering a variety of legislation that would expand access to virtual education/course access. One bill, Rep. Bryan Spencer’s HB1408, has already passed the House and is now being considered in the Senate. Three other bills were considered by the Senate Education Committee and have been passed and combined into Sen. Onder’s SB603.

 

Much more work to be done

While it is very encouraging to see so many school choice bills advancing so quickly this year, all of these pieces of legislation still have a long way to go before they have any impact on the children of Missouri.

It is imperative that supporters of school choice throughout Missouri let their elected officials know how they feel and how expanded school choice can impact their lives and the future of the state.

Make sure you have joined the CEAM action network so that your voice can be heard.

To sign up for our direct action network, please just text “CEAM” to 52886. We will send you periodic texts keeping you updated on what is happening with current legislation and letting you know when sharing your support can make a real impact in Jefferson City.