Thursday, March 16, 2017

St. Louis Republican: Why i voted for charter school bill

(From Rep. Marsha Haefner, R-St. Louis)

As we approached the last few days of the first half of session, many important and sometimes difficult issues were considered and debated at length of the House floor. One of the bills that many of you have shown interest in is HB 634, Charter Schools. When this bill was introduced I had many concurs as to how this legislation would impact the Mehlville School district and that was my only concern when faced with making a decision as to how I would vote. In spite of what some may say this legislation does, I want to set the record straight and assure you passing this bill is good for our school district. 

Last night several amendments were added to this bill that I believe insures parents and their children will have acceptable options if their school is failing students. A new Charter School cannot open unless a school is performing at 60% or below APR for 2 or 3 years. The amendment also added high standards for oversight in regards to academic performance and fiscal responsibility. The school district where the Charter School will reside has the first right of refusal to spinor the charter. Other aspects of the final bill assured me this is the very best policy for all districts in our state, including Mehlville. This policy is statewide, not just for charter and first class counties, which was one of my objections to the original bill. 

I sincerely hope my critics will do their homework and understand what this legislation really does, and does not do. Please keep in mind St. Louis City Schools were failing for 10 years before something was done. I believe the Mehlville School District will continue down the past of quality education and will not be affected by this legislation. If at some point a school does score low enough to qualify, there is now a reasonable choice. Acceptance of failure should never be your only option.

Charter School Expansion Bill Receives House Approval (HB 634)

Heading into their 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.

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.  

The bill would also limit the public dollars sent to charter schools to no more than 90 percent of the sending district’s tuition. Additionally, the bill is 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. 

House Budget Committee Unveils Spending Proposal that Fully Funds Education

Missouri’s public schools would be fully funded for the first time under the budget proposal unveiled by the House Budget Committee Chairman this week. The proposed spending plan would also restore a proposed cut to 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.

In addition to the additional $48 million that will fully fund the School Foundation Formula, the House budget proposal restores proposed cuts to K-12 transportation funding. The plan also secures $6 million in funding to increase broadband internet access for Missouri schools. Additionally, the House budget plan restores $21.75 million in proposed cuts for the state’s institutions of higher learning.

The FY 2018 spending plan proposed by the House Budget Committee also restores approximately $52 million in proposed cuts that would have impacted 20,000 seniors and disabled Missourians who currently qualify for state-funded in-home care and nursing home services.

Other notable funding decisions in the House plan include $3.5 million to fulfill the state’s commitment to the Biodiesel Producer Incentive Fund, record levels of funding for the state employee pension plan, and $1.4 million to fund a system of voter identification in Missouri.

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 discuss the bills on the House floor and have them out of the House by April 6. The Senate and House will then have until May 5 to agree to a spending plan and send it to the governor.

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