Missouri House Democrats unveiled a public education agenda on Tuesday in Jefferson City that they say is aimed at strengthening the state’s K-12 education system.

State Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, and other Missouri House Democrats unveil their education agenda on January 22, 2019 (photo courtesy of Tim Bommel at House Communications)

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, filed a bill Tuesday that involves charter schools, which are essentially publicly funded independent schools.

“This bill simply states that if a charter school is going to come into a new community, the expansion must go to a vote of the people,” Quade says. “We believe in local control and this bill hopefully will move forward to bring that.”

Charter schools currently operate in Missouri in St. Louis and Kansas City.

State Rep. Rebecca Roeber, R-Lee’s Summit, who chairs the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee, has filed legislation to allow charter schools to expand to any city with a population greater than 30,000 or to any school district accredited without provisions.

House Democrats also say GOP Governor Mike Parson’s proposed school transportation budget is underfunded by about $188 million.

State Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, the House Budget Committee’s ranking Democrat, tells Missourinet that transportation costs are a reason more districts are going to four-day weeks.

“The conversations I’ve had with district leaders in four-day school week areas indicate that transportation is one of the primary, if not the main reasons why they chose to go to four-day school week,” says Kendrick.

Governor Parson is proposing $112 million for student transportation. While that’s a $10 million increase from a year ago, Democrats say full funding would be about $301 million.

Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary (DESE) Education spokeswoman Nancy Bowles told Missourinet in late December that the number of districts on four-day weeks, or that have reported plans for a four-day week, has increased from 18 in September 2017 to about 34 now.

Bowles noted these are preliminary numbers for the 2018-19 school year and will not be finalized until school ends in May, which is when districts make their final report.

Meantime, a freshman House Democrat has filed legislation aimed at what he calls “lunch shaming.” State Rep. Ian Mackey, D-St. Louis, has filed legislation to require schools to provide a lunch to any student who requests one, regardless of whether the student can pay for it.

“This is a bill that addresses the stigmatization and shaming that goes on when a child qualifies for free and reduced lunch and is signaled out, either with a different colored punch card, a wristband,” Mackey says.

Supporters say the bill combats child hunger, noting children who are hungry cannot be prepared to do their very best.

State Rep. Raychel Proudie, D-Ferguson, has filed similar legislation.

Republicans currently control the Missouri House by a 115-47 margin.

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