The Missouri Senate could debate a giant education package this week that is a source of high contention among lawmakers and the education world. Senate Bill 55, sponsored by Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin, R-Shelbina, could change the landscape of K-12 education in the Show-Me State.
The plan would:
•Allow charter schools in any school district located within a charter county as well as in any Missouri city with a population greater than 30,000 people.
•Let parents use tax credits on things like private school tuition, school supplies, and tutoring. That portion could cost up to $100 million in its first year.
•Give state aid for full-time equivalent online learning enrollment to the MOCAP virtual school provider – not the local district the student lives in.
•Set up a process to allow school board members to be recalled.
•Limit State Board of Education members to one eight-year term.
•Strip a district of state aid if it is a member of a statewide activities association that bans a home school student from participating in activities offered by the district or requires a home school student to attend the school to participate in any activity.
Many Republicans have prioritized this legislative session the expansion of access to other educational opportunities. SB55 supporters have argued that traditional public schools do not work for every student’s needs. In some instances, they have pointed to the pandemic causing additional learning challenges for Missouri students.
SB 55 opponents have said the effort is an attack on public education and would take money away from traditional public schools. Another argument that has been made is if taxpayer money is going to go to charter schools and private schools, they should have the same accountability measures as traditional public schools.
The votes on the bill could be tight, possibly leading to deals being made behind the scene in order to get it across the finish line.
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