Charter schools provide choice, cost traditional districts
COLUMBIA - Missouri House Bill 634 would expand charter schools in the state, but several education leaders- including top Columbia Public School officials- have voiced concern. District leaders worry how charter schools would effect the budget because when a child goes to a charter school, the public dollars that would have gone to the district follow the child to that charter.
"The fact of the matter is we rely on taxpayer dollars to run these schools, and so if we lose those taxpayer dollars, we really can't provide the same level of public school system that we currently have," CPS Board member Christine King said at a March school board meeting.
At that same meeting, district officials came out against the bill, saying it could cost the district more than $800,000 dollars if 100 kids left CPS to attend a charter.
Tony Kline, the superintendent at University Academy charter school in Kansas City thinks charters are a good thing for students, and he supports the bill. The parents of every student at his school applied for their child to attend instead of sending them to their neighborhood public school.
"I think choice is always good for parents, and it's unfortunate to see large parts of this country where there is no choice," Kline said.
He also thinks charter schools have pushed Kansas City public schools to improve, "The competition, when introduced to the market, is one of the reasons why Kansas City improved and earned provisional accreditation for the first time in decades."
According to Kansas City Public Schools, public school enrollment in the district has dropped more than 25% since charters started operating around the year 2000. The district also provided numbers that show the concerns of CPS are not unfounded. The district estimates it lost more than $126-million in 2016 and close to $1.5 billion since the year 2000.
"We're a little concerned about that because charter school performance has been mixed at best. There are some that do pretty well. There are a lot that really don't perform really well, and we're not convinced that charter schools are the answer," Deputy Executive Director of the Missouri School Boards Association Brent Ghan said.
However, Kline argues is a charter school is not performing well it should close, and he feels if a district is doing well it shouldn't worry too much about charters taking away students because a charter school needs two things to operate- parents who want to put in the work to open it and enough interested students to make it viable.
"It's unlikely that we'll see an expansion of charter schools into many parts of Missouri outside the two metropolitan areas. I think it's more likely you'll see an expansion in the suburbs of Kansas City and St. Louis where there are large population centers," Kline added.
To expand charter schools this session, the legislature would have to pass HB634 before the end of the session. While there isn't much time left for lawmakers to do that, school choice has been a topic of national debate and could be brought up again in future state legislative sessions.