Charter schools highlighted at rural education forum

Speaker Todd Richardson speaks on his amendment to the charter school bill March 15, 2017. (Ben Peters/THE MISSOURI TIMES)

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. – Butler County Republicans hosted a town hall forum at the Poplar Bluff Chamber of Commerce to discuss the effects of two major pieces of education reform going through the Missouri General Assembly.

Speaker Todd Richardson, Rep. Steve Cookson and Sen. Doug Libla attended the event about Rep. Rebecca Roeber’s charter school bill, which passed through the House last week, as well as education savings account legislation currently being offered by Sen. Andrew Koenig.

kristian StarnerKristian Starner, an education reform advocate and an organizer of the event, said it was important to hold forums and encourage discussion on these topics, especially in rural areas.

“These education options and choices are generally seen as more of an urban issue, when in fact there are rural, outstate communities and this would impact them as well,” she said, before adding why she believes charters are important. “Choice encourages parental empowerment and involvement and allows more options for those who might not otherwise have the resources to access alternatives.

She added the public should know of potential different education options because of the misinformation surrounding charter schools and education savings accounts. Richardson, a key advocate of the charter bill, also answered questions during the entirety of the event.

Seen as an expansion of the charter school system, Roeber’s bill will allow a school to receive a charter in any district with at least one building scoring at 60 percent or less on its annual performance report (APR) or in any district without a technical career center, so long as that charter school becomes a technical school. Richardson added an amendment, which would explicitly and definitively revoke the charter of failing charter schools after a certain period of failure.

The bill has not been well received by all Republicans. It narrowly passed the House last week before the legislative Spring Break, and a tough fight is expected over the bill in the Senate. Libla said he thought the discussion was productive, but he remains unsure if charter school expansion was the way forward for Missouri’s education system.

“Charter schools might have a place and maybe for sure some of the larger cities, but they have the same issues as some of the public schools and some of the charter schools aren’t performing that well either,” he said. “I don’t see charter schools being that big of an impact in rural areas like my district.”

Libla said volunteerism could be a better way to help the state’s young people but added in a system with no “silver bullet” solution, charter plans could certainly be part of a more comprehensive plan to improve Missouri’s education system.

Justice

Justice

Eddy Justice, the treasurer for the House Republican Campaign Committee and Butler County resident, also helped create the event, and he was much more certain on charter education. He said school choice was an opportunity to provide for all of Missouri’s school children.

“The way I see it, every child has their own strengths and challenges and expecting every student to achieve with a one size fits all approach simply does not work. We can’t expect different academic results if we continue to use the same methods,” Justice said in a statement. “That’s why I think it’s important to talk about different education options and I’m glad folks in Butler County had the opportunity to learn about how public charter schools and education savings accounts can help our local community.”

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