On the political front, their were two bills that had most of the attention this week in the House and both of these bills narrowly passed the House and are now on their way to the Senate. These two bills were the Charter School Expansion Bill and the Circuit Breaker Bill. I just want you to know that I voted NO on each of these bills and I will tell you why.
The Charter School Expansion bill is a bill that supporters say will provide young people in failing schools with additional educational opportunities. This bill would allow charter schools to expand to areas where at least one school is performing poorly. If passed and signed by the governor, supporters of this legislation say that 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 (ARP) 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.
The bill would also limit the public dollars sent to charter schools to no more than 90% of the sending districts tuition. This bill is also contingent on the public school foundation formula being fully funded. If the K-12 formula is not fully funded, then no charter school changes go into effect.
Now, why did I oppose it? First and foremost, why put more and more money into something that has been a failure in the past. Our state has wasted $620 million in failed charter schools that have closed their doors. $620 million !!! Secondly, charter schools have failed and underperformed for many years and have had no consequences. Where is the accountability? Thirdly and one of my biggest reasons, I believe this charter bill is nothing more than Open Enrollment. Confluence Academies in St. Louis has continually failed year after year, but just last weekend their boys basketball team won another State title in Class 3a. When you can go and recruit the best players in St. Louis to attend your school, you could win also. It is not fair and should not be allowed. But the number one reason why I think it is wrong is, if passed, this will siphon public school dollars from the Education Formula that is intended to fund our public schools.
I want to remind all of you, just because it narrowly passed the House does not make it law. It has a long road to travel yet and I can assure it will see a lot of opposition over in the Senate. I promise to keep all of you updated on the progress of this bill.
The House again, narrowly approved a change to the state's circuit breaker tax credit for low-income seniors and Missourians with disabilities who rent their home. This is a tax credit that is given to provide funding for services for low-income seniors and disabled persons in helping them pay their property taxes each year. As you know, I voted along with many of my republican friends to try and stop this nonsense from happening. I don't believe we should be balancing the Missouri budget on the shoulders of our Senior citizens and disabled in this state. We give millions of dollars to rich corporations and you can't tell me there is not enough money in a $27 billion budget to come up with $56 million to care for these people. Our priorities are in the wrong place. It is my hope and prayer that the Senator's over in the Senate will do this right thing and throw this bill in the trash and take care of our elderly and disabled. Just my two cents.........