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CPS leaders, state representative disappointed in passage of bill allowing charter schools in Boone County


Some Columbia Public School leaders and state representatives are concerned about the Missouri House's passing of Senate Bill 727 Thursday.

SB727  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. Schoolboard member Paul Harper said he has his concerns because Boone County "seems to be targeted with the bill."

On Wednesday, the district approved Phase 1 of attendance area changes for elementary schools. On Friday, the district also broke ground on the new Southwest Elementary School expected to be completed by early 2026.

Harper said he worries students leaving the district to go to charter schools will lead to more problems for the district in the future.

"You know, we wont have those funds anymore for the school district but we also will have to quite frankly possibly consider our resources at that point because of that money that's going away," Harper said.

Columbia Board of Education President Suzette Waters said in a statement sent to ABC 17 News that the district is disappointed in the passing of the bill. Waters also thanked several leaders and legislators who lent their support and stated the district's mission remains the same:

"Despite what happens in this or any legislative session, the mission of Columbia Public Schools remains," the statement reads. "We are committed to providing an excellent education for all children. Education is an effort built of thousands of small acts and daily miracles. The work continues today and always."

Waters had sent a letter earlier this month to CPS employees, urging them to voice their opposition to the bill after superintendents from several Boone County schools – including CPS, Hallsville, Harrisburg, Sturgeon and Southern Boone school districts – signed a joint letter of opposition to the bill in March. 

State Rep. Kathy Steinhoff (D-Columbia) said she is opposed to charter schools coming to Boone County because it strips funding away from the public schools and leads to competition between the two.

"Whenever you take money that could be intended for public schools and you use it for other purposes then you start to have winners and losers," Steinhoff said. "Especcially when you're giving it to schools that don't have to follow the same rules public schools do."

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.

Ward 5 City Councilman Don Waters shared an opposing belief, stating he thinks competition will be good for CPS. He said increasing the level of competition could benefit the district, which he believes has declined over the years.

"You know, the test scores have gone down, you know so there's a lot of things that I think the school...CPS isn't what it was," Waterman said. "So, I think we need to try and turn it around you know raise the game…you know so we're turning out students who are ready to compete."

Article Topic Follows: Columbia Public Schools

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Nia Hinson


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