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Missouri House passes bill that would allow charter schools in Boone County



Missouri lawmakers passed a bill on Thursday that would allow charter schools to operate in Boone County.

Senate Bill 727  mentions that school districts in Boone County would be added to the list of districts where a charter school could be operated. The bill would also expand K-12 private school scholarships statewide that would be funded by private donors in exchange for tax credits. The bill heads to Gov. Mike Parson’s desk.

A charter school is a free, public school that operates independently of any school district, according to the Missouri Charter Public School Commission. Families can choose to enroll children in charter schools and the schools receive funds per student, similar to that of a regular school district.

The bill has been contentious among public school officials in Boone County. Superintendents from several Boone County schools – including Columbia Public Schools, Hallsville, Harrisburg, Sturgeon and Southern Boone school districts – signed a joint letter of opposition in March. Columbia Board of Education President Suzette Waters sent a letter earlier this month to CPS employees, urging them to voice their opposition to the bill.

ABC 17 News reached out to Columbia Public Schools on Thursday afternoon.

CPS spokesperson Michelle Baumstark previously told ABC 17 News that the bill could result in a more than $15 million loss for public schools in Boone County. Waters told ABC 17 News last month that the loss of revenue could result in job cuts or cuts to extracurricular activities.

The Senate Bill was supported by State Sen. Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia). He told ABC 17 News in December that education reform is very important to him this legislative session, and he would like to see charter schools in Boone County.

Rep. Cheri Toalson Reisch shared support for the bill on Wednesday on her Facebook page.

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade (D-Springfield) issued a statement on Thursday that opposed the bill.

““SB 727 provides a massive expansion of taxpayer-funded vouchers for private schools and nothing but empty promises for public education. While the voucher expansion is essentially guaranteed, the promises to public schools depend on additional funding the state isn’t expected to have and future lawmakers aren’t required to provide,” her statement says. “The legislature had a chance to strengthen all Missouri schools but instead decided to once again shortchange public education.”

A spokesperson for Rep. Deb Lavender (D-Manchester) shared a statement over email that also showed displeasure with the bill passing.

““Republicans who claim they advocate for ‘fiscally conservative’ policy just voted in favor of an education bill with a projected fiscal note of close to $500 million, while members of Missouri Budget committees are running around the building with ‘their hair on fire’ saying we are coming to a fiscal cliff and have no money to pay for any additional services for people in our state,” the statement says.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Article Topic Follows: Education

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Ryan Shiner


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