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HB 634 Charter School Expansion Talking Points

House Bill 634 will allow charter schools to be operated in any school district of the state. Presently, charter schools are limited to the Kansas City and St. Louis school districts, unaccredited school districts, school districts that have been classified as provisionally accredited and has received scores on its annual performance report consistent with the classification of provisionally accredited or unaccredited for three consecutive school years and any school district in which a board of education wishes to sponsor the charter school.

Most charter schools are underperforming in Missouri. In reviewing the 2016 Annual Performance Report (APR) that the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) compiles for all Missouri school districts and charter schools, of the 39 charter school local educational agencies (LEAs), 11 would be deemed provisionally accredited and six would be deemed unaccredited (if the state gave accreditation monikers to charter schools like traditional public schools, which they cannot by law). Of the remaining 22 charter schools that are not either provisionally accredited or unaccredited, four did not receive an APR score because they are considered too new to receive such a score (3 years of data is required to earn a score). This means that only 18 out of a possible 39 charter school LEAs (46%) would be deemed to be fully accredited (if given such a moniker) for the 2015-16 school year.

Charter schools are costly and inefficient. Between 1999 (the year charter schools were authorized in Missouri) and the 2015-16 school year, 59 charter schools were established and began operations in Missouri. Twenty-one of those 59 charter schools (35.6%) have closed due to academic performance or financial issues. Of the local, state and federal funds received by charter schools since their existence, over $620 million has gone to Missouri charter schools that have closed their doors. These funds were siphoned largely from the Kansas City and St. Louis Public School Districts.

Additional damages to public school districts:  with regard to efficiency, even if a number of students leave from different classrooms across a school district to attend a charter school, the cost of operating a community’s entire school district is essentially unchanged. School districts are left with less money to cover the same operating expenses, such as maintenance, utilities and transportation costs. To put it another way, if one student leaves a classroom to attend a charter school, the district doesn’t save money because it can’t lay off 1/25th of a teacher.

Charter schools do not adhere to typical public governance. Charter schools are governed by a charter school board. The individuals who form the charter school board are not locally elected, yet these individuals are permitted to spend millions of public taxpayer dollars without the public accountability that accompanies a traditional public school board. As a result, these individuals face less public scrutiny. Moreover, charter school board members are not required to live within the boundaries of Missouri, let alone the area in which the charter school sits.

Charter schools do not operate under the same requirements as traditional public schools. Below is a list of various ways that charter schools receive special treatment as compared to a traditional school district:

* The State Board of Education has no authority in regulating and overseeing charter schools. In fact, while charter schools receive APR scores, they are not subject to accreditation under MSIP.

* The State Board of Education does not have any ability to reject a charter application. As long as the charter school applicant meets certain requirements under the law, the charter application is automatically accepted. A common theme from autopsies of a number of failed charter schools in Missouri is that they were not prepared to do the job when they opened. State Board discretion might have avoided failure and the waste of money that went along with said failure.

* Charter schools are permitted to limit class size and not accept all students. As students leave a charter school for one reason or another, charter schools are allowed to leave those seats open and not replace the student with a new student who has not previously attended the charter school. In many communities where charter schools institute this practice, student mobility is high and this acts as a way for the charter school to avoid the issues that come with student mobility. Public schools do not have this luxury.