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Eigel presents plan to expand charters in Missouri

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A proposal from Sen. Bill Eigel ignited debate on charter school development and public school operations in a Senate Education Committee Tuesday.

SB 650, sponsored by Eigel, primarily would expand where charter schools can operate and repeal some of the city of St. Louis’ regulations on charter school development.

The bill would prohibit St. Louis from rejecting property sold or leased by the city from being used for a charter school. It also said the city cannot refuse to sell, lease, or transfer property solely because it will be used for a charter school. 

State Sen. Bill Eigel

Eigel’s proposal would allow for charter schools to be developed in any county or municipality with a population of 30,000 regardless of a school district’s accreditation status. 

Now, students residing in Kansas City, St. Louis, or an unaccredited school district can transfer to an approved charter school, according to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). Charters can also operate in certain school districts that have been classified as provisionally accredited for three consecutive years as well as in accredited districts if sponsored by the local school board. 

Eigel, as well as Republicans on the committee, cited curriculum in public schools as a key factor behind their advocacy for charter school expansion. They argued more government money should be invested in charter schools that can provide dissatisfied parents with additional alternatives for their child’s education. 

“If we’re wasting hundreds of millions of dollars, how many hundreds of millions of dollars do we have to waste before it’s appropriate for the state to get involved,” Eigel said. 

Eigel also plans to offer a committee substitute that will prohibit schools from requiring masks and vaccinations of students. 

Public school representatives testifying against the bill contended that there are already programs in place that provide parents options for schooling and devoting resources to charter schools would further deplete struggling public school systems. 

“What we’re seeing here is some the most powerful special interests in the state of Missouri fighting on behalf of a monopoly that they’ve had for generations in this state,” Eigel contested. 

Several private citizens who testified in support of the bill cited a lack of school board responsiveness and dissatisfaction with schools’ diversity education curriculum and references to LGBTQ issues. 

“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,” Democratic Sen. Jill Schupp said. “And to me, that is absolutely contrary to what education is supposed to do.”