JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
State Rep. Chuck Basye wants voters to have the power to recall school board members and parents the ability to transfer their children from schools teaching only online out of coronavirus fears.
Basye, R-Rocheport, filed the bills for consideration in the current legislative session. He said he did so in response to complaints from parents and students struggling with online learning.
Columbia Public Schools has been teaching its students primarily online since the spring amid fears of coronavirus spreading among students and staff. Basye has appeared with parents rallying outside school board meetings to push for a return to in-person learning. He was also one of the legislators who held a hearing over the summer about schools and online learning where school board members and CPS Superintendent Peter Stiepleman testified.
"House Bill 229 (the school board recall bill), I filed that because I’ve been meeting with a lot of the parents at Columbia Public Schools especially, but also in other school districts that aren’t in-person and many of them have asked how they could recall school board members because they truly do not feel they’re being listened to," Basye said.
The Columbia Board of Education meets Monday to determine if students will be allowed back into classrooms on Jan. 19. The return to classroom date has been pushed back before and parents are concerned with what the decision may be.
House Bill 229 would give voters the ability to recall a school board member by petition drive and a recall election. The reasons the bill gives for starting a recall include "lack of responsiveness to concerns raised by the public or staff" and "breach of public trust."
House Bill 514 would require any school district that does not offer an in-person option to provide an education voucher to help defer the expenses of providing in-person instruction in an alternative setting.
"If Columbia is going to keep refusing to send the kids back then these parents would like an option to send their kids to another educational facility where there would be a private or parochial school or even a nearby public school and the tuition would be paid for by the district where they’re moving from," Basye said.
Basye, whose wife works for CPS, said his intent in filing these bills is not to hurt public schools but to offer options to parents who have children struggling with online learning.
Basye also has three grandchildren who attend CPS schools. He says he's sat in on his grandchildren's Zoom classes and is disappointed in the way the online program is going. One morning his grandson's teacher never showed up for a Zoom class and the family never received communication as to why.
"If you follow those Facebook groups those parents have formed, you see that all the time where they feel that they’re just not being educated properly and I agree," Basye said. "I don’t think this is working. It’s not in the best interest of most of these kids."
Brent Ghan, deputy executive director of Missouri School Boards' Association, said his organization opposes Basye's proposals.
“Parents certainly have an option to use private providers for their child’s education as they wish, but where we draw the line is the use of taxpayer dollars and the legislation would allow for what are essentially vouchers, public money to be used to subsidize the education through a private entity," Ghan said of the transfer bill.
Basye says the school board is only concerned about how much money something is going to cost rather than what's in the best interest of families and students.
Ghan said his organization opposes any legislation that would recall school board members because they are unpaid volunteers making difficult and controversial decisions they think are best for the district.
"School board members need to be in a position where they can make those decisions that they think are the best for the school district without the fear of being recalled," Ghan said.
Basye says getting any bill passed is difficult but the House is focused on education reform. He said if he stays chair of the House education committee the bills will get quick hearings.