A push to widen the path for charter schools statewide is back. The Missouri Senate Education Committee is considering whether to allow charter schools in any charter county or Missouri city with a population greater than 30,000.
Under current state law, charter schools are only allowed in Kansas City, St. Louis and any unaccredited Missouri public school district.
Charter schools are state funded but privately operated.
State Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, is sponsoring Senate Bill 650.
The plan would require school board elections to take place in November and would let charter schools use vacant traditional public school buildings. It also includes provisions about mandatory vaccinations and masking for students as well as school workers.
State Senator Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, questions a key provision.
“As we’ve seen over the years, there are bills that still limit where charter schools can go. If this is such a great idea to provide these options Why would we limit it,” asks Schupp.
“I think that from a step-by-step process and bringing more choice to the state of Missouri in the form of charter school expansion, I think that the temperature of the Senate body is one that we’ll be accepting a little bit of expansion so we can give a few more parents choice,” says Eigel.
State Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin, R-Shelbina, says parents should have more options throughout the state.
“I feel like kids don’t choose to go to another school or their parents don’t choose that unless they just feel like there’s a failure where they are,” she says.
Otto Fagin, representing the Missouri National Education Association, says the bill would result in more schools with less educational choices in each school.
“Let’s say you do get another school and yet another school and now a district like Columbia has five or six more schools,” he says. “Well, you’ve got five or six more transportation systems, five or six more administrations. Probably some of the kids like the school that they’re going to, but you have to think about what’s that done to all of the kids in the whole community. They probably don’t have what they had at the other high schools, because the resources are being spread thinner and thinner amongst more and more buildings.”
State Senator Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, says the fight is about money, not about the students.
Shawn Rhoads, of the Missouri School Boards’ Association (MSBA), says the group opposes the bill. He says charter school board members are not elected. He says if charter schools are allowed across the state, MSBA would like them to be under the direction of the elected school board, for taxpayer accountability purposes.
O’Laughlin says not all school boards are responsive to the local taxpayers.
“I think that if they’re not responsible, that’s why there’s an election every year for two to three people each time so that if that needs to be handled by the local community that needs to be done,” says Rhoads.
Jennifer Stock, a mother from the Kirkwood School District, spoke in favor of the bill.
“My husband and I spoke with the superintendent, the principal, we went to board meetings, we spoke at board meetings, and we were not heard, we offered options. It came to the point where we realized our parental rights were not there in public school. Our children and the Children’s still there are being over sexualized, immoral values introduced at an elementary level, and inappropriate school books. The big thing is the forced acceptance of other people’s beliefs in the public schools. We disagreed with the social agendas shoved down our children’s throats at an early age, BLM, teacher led marches for these, CRT, pride flags in classrooms, but you couldn’t have a cross on your desk as a teacher, just the non-binary trans agenda being shoved down these children’s throats at an age where they shouldn’t even be thinking about sexualization.
Stock says she pulled her kids out of public school and enrolled them in a local Catholic school.
“We’re not even Catholic, but we knew at least the morality would be there,” she says. “There’s a good foundation. There’s a good school, a Blue Ribbon School that we were at. Ultimately, we pulled our children from even private school.”
She home schools her kids instead.
Stock’s testimony hit a nerve with Sen. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City.
“I appreciate that you took your kids to Catholic school to where they could be taught morality. I knew that I was gay at five years old. I would have loved to have seen a pride flag. I am sure that trans kids feel the same. And I’m pretty sure that African-American kids can look down at their skin color and figure out their skin color is different than the majority at five years old. And I would like to think that I am a moral person. Trans people are moral people. And a whole lot of African-Americans are moral people, too. So the idea that I am unmoral is rather offensive thing,” says Razer.
“My purpose is not to offend anyone,” Stock responds. “I have friends that are gay. And truly, I could have coffee and sit with anyone, and have a great conversation. And we can be friends, honestly. But at the time, my son was in second grade. And it’s just not anything. I don’t want my kids introduced to any kind of sexuality, to be honest, truly, I don’t think it’s appropriate. So, female, male, I’d be against that as well. And as far as pride flags I, I just disagree with any social agenda no matter what it is, even if it’s my own agenda. If it’s, I am pretty much conservative all around. But my agenda has no place in the schools either. And so I just, my point is, let’s just keep it to the basics, the core curriculum, math, science, history, and leave the rest to the parents.”
Schupp recalls a time when she was teaching fourth graders.
“There was a spelling word. It was the word version,” says Schupp. “And one of my fourth grade students said, ‘Miss Selter.’ That’s my maiden name, Miss Selter. ‘Two boys called Sharon and me versions last week. What did that mean?’ Now, we weren’t having a conversation about sexuality. We were having spelling. And I said, ‘I think what they called you was virgin. And what it means is pure.’ And that was the best way for me to handle it. But here’s my point. You cannot keep the world from intruding on what goes on in the classroom, nor do you want to. Kids need to learn and to think, and what they’re exposed to, often from the outside comes into a classroom and vice versa. What you are proposing, and what I hear from others today, is the idea that if we don’t like something, or we don’t want to hear it, or we’re not ready as parents to accept that our kids are learning from the world around them, then what we’ll do is pack them up and go somewhere where we think we can shelter them. And to me, that is absolutely contrary to what education is supposed to do.”
Stock says she disagrees with Schupp’s response.
“If we’re enabling this type of world, because we’re accepting it, and I think your response was great. However, you know, I have friends that say, ‘Just leave it, you’re only going to hurt yourself. This is the world we’re living in.’ Well, that’s because we’ve accepted that and I don’t accept things I don’t agree with. So leave it to the parents, the version versus virgin, let the parent explain it. Go back onto spelling. That’s it. You’re here for school. It’s not the teacher’s job to dissect the world as a child’s bringing whatever they’ve experienced outside of the classroom into the classroom. The teacher’s job is to teach.”
“That’s exactly what I was doing. Thank you,” says Schupp.
The committee has not yet voted on the legislation.
To view the bill, click here.
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