Dr. Candice Carter-Oliver's Testimony

Missouri Charter Schools are funded at a lower rate per student than traditional public schools. This has resulted in an imbalance in funding for families that have chosen to educate their children in a charter school setting.

I currently serve as the CEO of Confluence Academies, the largest charter school network in the city of St. Louis with nearly 2800 students. In five schools, we service families in north, central, and south St. Louis. Prior, I served as an assistant superintendent of the Normandy Schools Collaborative and an elementary principal in St. Louis Public Schools. I grew up in University City, MO during the school year with my single mother and spent my summers in Caruthersville, Hayti, and Sikeston, MO with my grandparents.

Public education is my mission and EQUITY is deserving of all—equity as defined as fairness, fair-mindedness, and justness.

Charter Schools were created to provide families an opportunity to decide where they want their child to be educated. Is it my belief that choice need not only be given to those with resources as most commonly results. Public education and parental choice are fundamental rights. Simply, all children deserve a quality education despite their parents’ income level or geographic location.

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed communities to limits--emotionally, financially, educationally and socially. School systems have had to pivot quickly from in-person learning to part or full remote learning. School budgets were stretched to adapt by purchasing hotspots for families that did not have internet accessibility to providing daily meals to the community. I’m pleased to share that Confluence served over a half-million meals to families in our community to date. Many schools had to purchase additional Chromebooks or update existing devices. Purchasing of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was necessary for students and staff in addition to specifically required cleaning solutions and additional maintenance staff for sanitizing.

The question many schools are asking is “Where is the money to purchase these things?” With Charter Schools receiving less funds to educate the same families as traditional public schools, the task to find money is more daunting.

Charter Schools and traditional public schools are located within the same community with like poverty conditions. Each serve the same students and have many of the same struggles in providing a Free and Appropriate Public Education for students needing assistance. Assistance in the form of social emotional learning, resources for students with special needs (CA educates roughly 8% of SPED students) to Advanced Placement Courses for students to gain college credit; all benefit at-risk populations.

Charter and traditional public schools are the heart for families and students to receive socialization, advocacy and assistance with everyday life issues. This is why conversations between charters and SLPS have resulted in a new collaboration with discussions on ways to work together to reduce operational costs, collaborate on professional teacher training to reviewing school locations.

These are the times in which we live and Charter Schools are a hub to their community just like traditional public schools. I know we can’t solve all the ills of society, but providing equitable funding is a start to addressing the educational environment. Fixing this glitch is necessary and the time is now.

This is not a bi-partisan issue. This is an “all kids partisan” issue. We have kids sitting in classrooms today not receiving equitable resources. Confluence has an onsite health clinic, a number of wraparound services to include mental and behavioral health supports, and transportation services.

Funding Charter Schools equally as traditional Public Schools with the shortfall of $25 million dollars annually will allow Charter Schools to enhance their trauma informed training for teachers to learn how to address these issues that occur in the classroom and promote a safe and effective academic environment. Charter Schools will be able to address “Fatigue” experienced by teachers and staff who hear about or witness the intense suffering of trauma by their students.

Fix the Glitch will improve Charter Schools’ ability to provide a higher salary for experienced teachers and staff to work in an intense educational environment that has the perseverance and grit needed to help our students excel during difficult times. CA prides itself with employing 33% teachers of color.

Charter Schools’ families chose a different educational plan – not funding inequity in the ability to education their children.

Fix the Glitch!