Friday, March 17, 2017

Farmington Republican: Charter bill offers students additional educational opportunities

(From Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington)

Heading into our annual Spring Break, House members gave approval to legislation meant to provide young people in failing schools with additional educational opportunities. The bill would allow charter schools to expand to areas where at least one school is performing poorly.

I met with the speaker three times on this bill. After much discussion and negotiation, we built a compromise. The legislation would increase the accountability and academic requirements for not only new charter schools, but existing ones as well. The bill would limit charter school expansion to districts that have a school building with an Annual Performance Report (APR) score of 60 or lower in two of the last three years. If a charter underperforms in comparison to similar schools in their district for two of the past three years, they will be limited to a three-year charter renewal. The bill provides that charter schools will have a three-year probationary period, and if a charter performs poorly during two of the three years, that charter school will be ineligible for renewal and will be forced to close.

I also was able to help negotiate getting the foundation formula fully funded with an additional $48 million before this bill is triggered. With this bill we will be able to hold charter schools accountable by a measurable standard and close those that don’t meet the standard. I truly believe this bill is a great example of sound compromise in the House. HB634 now goes to the Senate where it can only be approved and made better or it will die. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this bill, please feel free to call me, stop by the Capitol, or email me your number so I can call you to discuss this bill and its impact on our county.

The House Budget Committee Chairman unveiled the budget proposal this week. The proposed spending plan includes the full funding for public schools, and would also restore a proposed cut to the in-home care and nursing home services for senior and disabled Missourians.

The Budget Chairman said the 13 appropriations bills that will make up the Fiscal Year 2018 state-operating budget represent the legislature’s commitment to its young people, as well as to its most vulnerable citizens.

The legislation approved this week would create the Missouri Senior Services Protection Fund to provide funding for services for low-income seniors and disabled persons. To provide the funding, the legislation ends the renter’s portion of the senior citizens property tax credit. The change would generate up to $56 million in funds that would be used to help provide health care services to Missouri’s most vulnerable citizens.

The House Budget Committee will work to finalize the budget bills and send them to the floor when the House returns from Spring Break. House Leaders plan to discuss the bills on the House floor and have them out of the House by April 6.

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