J.B. Connoley of KRES contributed to this story.

A northern Missouri Republican state Representative who calls a proposed statewide expansion of charter schools “an attack on rural districts” says compromise is a possibility, as long as rural schools aren’t harmed. State Rep. Nate Walker (R-Kirksville) says Lee’s Summit Republican state Rep. Rebecca Roeber’s legislation in its current form would impact those districts.

Representative Nate Walker (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

“Anytime you take money from the foundation formula, whether it goes to schools in the rural areas or the urban areas, it lessens the impact,” says Walker. “I think the rural schools always get hurt the most.”

Roeber also says compromise is possible, but contends that rural schools would not be harmed under her proposal. She says about 500 students would be required in order to launch a charter school.

“Nobody is wanting to end rural schools. We all know how important they are to rural communities. I’m a public school educator. I taught for 18 years. My grandson lives with us and is in a public school. I don’t have anything against public schools. It’s just not every public school is working well and not every kid fits in a square peg,” says Roeber.

Rep. Rebecca Roeber (R-Lee’s Summit)

She goes on to say that not every charter school has been successful and those schools have been closed. According to Roeber, charter schools operate on a five year contract with certain benchmarks that must be met in order to continue to operate.

Charter schools are currently limited to the St. Louis and Kansas City school districts, and any that are unaccredited. Roeber says charter schools in St. Louis and Kansas City have helped to improve statewide test scores for public schools there.

“Competition is a wonderful thing. They are competing for those students and I think it can rise the boat for everybody. That’s what we’re trying to achieve here,” says Roeber.

Walker does not think there’s enough committee support yet to allow consideration by the full House. Support from House Republicans and Governor Eric Greitens (R) makes Roeber optimistic that her bill will make it out of committee this year. During a recent address to the NAACP, Greitens praised charter schools.