MCPSA Hails Passage of SB 576 by State Legislature
Today, by a vote of 99-54, the Missouri House of Representatives truly agreed to and finally passed SB 576. SB 576 passed the Missouri State Senate earlier in the legislative session by a vote of 31-2. This legislation increases the accountability of charter schools in the state while also expanding the locations where charter schools may operate outside of St. Louis and Kansas City.
“We believe it is important that all of Missouri’s families have an opportunity to choose the public educational option best for their children. This legislation will provide more families across the state access to quality charter schools held accountable to high standards of academic performance and operational management,” said MCPSA Executive Director Dr. Douglas Thaman.
The bill was sponsored by State Senator Bill Stouffer (R- Napton) and championed in the State House by Representatives Todd Richardson (R- Poplar Bluff), Tishaura Jones (D- St. Louis City) and Scott Dieckhaus (R- Washington). SB 576 is the first major legislation regarding charter schools in Missouri since the original charter school law was passed by the legislature in 1998.
SB 576 increases the accountability provisions for charter schools and their sponsors. Charter schools are now required to sign performance contracts with their sponsors as part of their charter and these contracts will weigh heavily in their renewal at the end of the charter term. This legislation also includes many other accountability measures that better define the roles and responsibilities of the State Board of Education, sponsors and individual schools in the Missouri’s charter public school community.
Under SB 576, charter school sponsors would also now be formally evaluated every three years by the State Board of Education, but could still be reviewed at anytime for cause. New sponsors of charter schools would also have to be approved by the State Board prior to sponsoring a school. Other provisions in the bill also require increased reporting by sponsors on the charter school’s academic performance, financial health and contractual agreements with management companies.
“Missouri’s charter school community welcomes the increased autonomy for increased accountability bargain that is at the heart of the charter school model,” said Thaman. “Missouri’s charter schools work tirelessly every day toward a high quality public education for students from very diverse backgrounds.”
In addition to increasing the accountability on Missouri’s charter public schools, SB 576 would allow charter schools to operate in any unaccredited district in the state as well as in districts that have been labeled provisionally accredited by the State Board of Education and subsequently have three years of provisionally accredited APR scores starting with the 2012-2013 school year. Sponsors of charter schools in provisionally accredited districts would have to be in good standing with newly adopted State Board of Education rules. Charter schools would have to be approved by the State Board of Education before opening in districts labeled provisionally accredited due to financial stress.
Charter schools would also be able to operate in any fully accredited school district in the state if the local district school board was the sponsor. Some school boards are considering charter schools as an option to give them more flexibility and allow for innovative instructional programs and site based control structures.
“We are seeing nationally that local school districts are some of the best authorizers and sponsors of charter schools,” Thaman continued. “We would like to see school boards in Missouri have this option for public education in their district.”
This new legislation also expands the potential sponsors for charter schools to some Missouri universities and colleges not allowed to sponsor charter schools under current law and creates the Missouri Charter Public School Commission. The Commission will operate under the same laws as all other charter school sponsors in the state and will only have authority over the schools under their sponsorship. Similar commissions are being created in other states to serve as a charter school sponsor due to the high demand for charter schools and quality sponsors.
SB 576 now goes to Governor Nixon where he has until July 14 to act on the legislation. If Governor Nixon signs the bill, the new laws would go into effect on August 28. In his State of the State address on January 17 the Governor called for the legislature to send him a bill that increased accountability on Missouri’s charter schools.
“We believe this bill heeds the Governor’s call for more accountability on Missouri’s charter public schools and we are hopeful that he will sign,” said Thaman.