Measure to transfer millions to charter schools advances in Missouri House – St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Doug Thaman, executive director of the Missouri Public Charter School Association (right), talks to Kathie McCann, assistant principal at Gateway Science Academy, in the rotunda of the Missouri Capitol on Wednesday, February 9, 2022. Thaman and McCann were meeting with legislators in support of a public school funding bill. Photo by Blythe Bernhard, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
JEFFERSON CITY — A measure advancing in the Missouri House would transfer millions in funding from public schools to charter schools in St. Louis.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Doug Richey, R-Excelsior Springs, would adjust the education funding formula, splitting funding between public and charter schools based on enrollment.
In St. Louis, this would transfer $18 million from public to charter schools, according to the bill’s fiscal analysis.
“We’re just trying to work out a fair solution,” Richey said. “So that the kids attending these school districts as well as the charter LEAs (Local Education Agencies) … are being fairly funded.”
Kansas City and St. Louis have the only charter schools in the state. Other areas would not be subject to the funding changes. The bill faces at least one more vote in the House.
With the mechanism largely already accepted in Kansas City, St. Louis was the focus of much of the debate.
“People in St. Louis City tend to be divided over this issue,” said Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin. “Those who send their kids to charters feel very passionately, very supportive of those charters. And as has been noted, that’s about 40% of the parents in that district right now. And those kids are not receiving an adequate amount of funding for their schools right now.”
Opponents argued that public schools need funding to “get back on their feet.”
Richey added an amendment to delay the implementation of the new formula in St. Louis for five years, calling it a compromise.
“City leaders, school board members, charter members have called for a citywide plan for education,” said Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, D-St. Louis. “So I appreciate the gentleman adding the five-year delay into it so we can continue to have these conversations in the city of St. Louis.”
An amendment sought by Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, would allow for local taxes passed by voters, like the desegregation tax, to be allocated to specific school funding. The amendment was voted down.
Merideth also highlighted the need to provide funding for transportation to charter schools. If the charter schools were to be publicly funded, Merideth argued, providing transportation would be a key piece of creating more equitable access to the schools.
Richey said an overarching issue was that representatives for St. Louis Public Schools hadn’t been willing to “come to the table” to negotiate on the bill.
Several St. Louis-based lawmakers kept coming back to the point that, regardless, legislating for an area without the input of that area wasn’t reasonable.
“I’m not going to just go and make bills without talking to people,” said Rep. Kimberly-Ann Collins, D-St. Louis.
The legislation is House Bill 1552.
Grace Zokovitch
gzokovitch@post-dispatch.com
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Doug Thaman, executive director of the Missouri Public Charter School Association (right), talks to Kathie McCann, assistant principal at Gateway Science Academy, in the rotunda of the Missouri Capitol on Wednesday, February 9, 2022. Thaman and McCann were meeting with legislators in support of a public school funding bill. Photo by Blythe Bernhard, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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