The House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education has held a hearing on legislation dealing with charter schools. Representative Tishaura Jones’ (D-St. Louis) bill would address expansion and accountability for those schools, as well as other details of their operation.

In a packed House Gallery, Representative Tishaura Jones (D-St. Louis) presents her charter schools bill to the House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education.

Testimony on the bill took up over four hours Wednesday morning and afternoon. Some who were against the legislation said they want charter schools to do the same Annual Yearly Reporting that is required of traditional public schools.

Committee Chairman Scott Dieckhaus (R-Washington) says that’s comparing apples to oranges. “If you’re looking at a traditional school district and they’re starting with students, say, in kindergarten and they get to keep them all the way through eighth grade or through twelfth grade, comparing those districts to one another makes sense. In some cases we’re looking at charter schools … they’re inheriting students at a point in their educational career that’s maybe going to require some time to catch up.”

Representative Scott Dieckhaus (R-Washington), right, chairs the House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education.

Dieckhaus says there might be some middle ground on that issue, but he is more adamant about another. “Expansion will remain a part of this bill if it’s going to pass the House,” he says. “Any of the bills (on charter schools) that come through my committee, expansion will remain a part of that legislation. I think that the reason that we need that is because of the unaccredited status primarily in the urban areas in St. Louis and Kansas City … more because we just need better access to better schools soon.”

Others opposing the legislation say it doesn’t go far enough on increasing accountability. Representative Jones says she doesn’t know how much farther she can go. “I don’t know what else we can do except say that they’re liable to go to jail if they don’t educate children, but we don’t hold our district schools to that standard.”

Dieckhaus also thinks the bill does enough. “The accountability pieces in this bill would actually make it one of the strongest charter accountability pieces in the country … certainly we’re going to listen to anybody who has any proposals as to how to strengthen the accountability if they’re viable, realistic solutions.”

See details of HB 1228 on Charter schools.

Dieckhaus says the legislation will come up again when his committee meets on Wednesday.

AUDIO: Representative Tishaura Jones presents her charter schools bill to the House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education – 5 mins, 53 seconds mp3