A bill to fund Missouri charter schools using state money is awaiting another House vote after members of the Senate passed it on Wednesday.
Senators voted 29-5, with the bill receiving broader bipartisan support compared to the House version, which won few Democratic votes.
Under the bill, House members passed by an 85-67 vote more than a month ago, millions of dollars in public school funding from Kansas City Public Schools and St. Louis would have been used to resolve a so-called “glitch” in the funding formula to make up the difference in charter school funding.
Charter schools, which are independent schools funded by the state, are currently only located in St. Louis and Kansas City. Currently, public schools receive more money per student than charter schools.
According to the tax memo on the passed bill, more than $8 million would have been transferred from the Kansas City Public School District to its area charter schools, while St. Louis Public Schools would have lost about $18 million. dollars for the benefit of charter schools.
Now, under the Senate bill, the state, not school districts, would pay that difference through an increase in the base formula used to determine school funding.
Speaking on the bill after its first round approval in the Senate nearly two weeks ago, Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said he wants public schools and chartered are treated in the most similar way possible.
“Putting some of those dollars into the formula to say, ‘Hey, if we’re going to fully fund the formula, you know, we’re going to make sure those charters get the dollars that they’re entitled to,’ I think that was a good deal,” Rowden said.
The Senate bill received support from some Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence, who called the bill a good compromise.
“They wanted to take a cut of funding from Kansas City and St. Louis. Now, instead of cutting their slice, we’ve made the whole pie bigger,” Rizzo said.
In addition to funding, the Senate substitute creates several criteria for charter schools in Missouri, such as the requirement that any management company that operates schools in Missouri be a nonprofit organization and requiring board members to charter schools reside in the state.
The bill also creates provisions and new language on virtual school programs. Asked about this part of the bill, Rowden said one part is about accountability measures.
“I think there was concern about a kid going on a virtual program, maybe they’re there for a year, maybe it doesn’t work out, for some reason they come back to school. ‘local school, and all of a sudden that local school is responsible for the loss of learning that may have happened,” Rowden said. “And so we changed the way some of that responsibility goes.
With the bill passing the Senate, it now heads to the House for another vote before moving on to the Governor. Rep. Doug Richey, R-Excelsior Springs, who sponsored the House version of the bill, said he believes this is the year they will push this legislation through.
“I think the direction we’re headed in, it certainly serves to build support for Democrats in St. Louis and Kansas City, because it puts them in a position where they can now say they’ve protected the public purse. from the district, as well as publicly chartered funds,” Richey said.
Some House Democrats have already expressed greater support for the Senate version as opposed to its predecessor.
Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, D-St. Louis, who worked on the House bill, including adding an amendment that delayed its coming into force for the city of St. Louis, called the Senate version of the bill historic.
“I think it’s a huge investment for urban areas, because it’s only going to St. Louis City and Kansas City. It puts more money into education so charters can be brought up to par with public schools,” Aldridge said. “But that doesn’t take anything away from anyone. I think it’s a win-win for everyone.
According to Richey, the current plan is to take the Senate version without asking for a conference committee.
Follow Sarah Kellogg on Twitter: @sarahkkellogg