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Education

Both charter and traditional public school leaders are happy with MO legislature funding compromise

St. Louis Public Schools parents, teachers and advocates rally in front of the state Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022 in Jefferson City, Mo.
Kate Grumke
/
St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Public Schools parents, teachers and advocates rally for funding in front of the state Capitol in February in Jefferson City.

Charter school leaders in Missouri are celebrating the passage of a measure that will increase funding for their students.

The bill that is headed to Gov. Mike Parson’s desk will fund charter school students at the same rate as students at traditional public schools. It will do this by changing Missouri’s public school funding formula.

“We were thrilled,” said Douglas Thaman, executive director of the Missouri Charter Public School Association. “We are really, really pleased that the legislature understood the importance of this and the importance of a great education for our 26,000-plus students.”

An earlier version of the bill would have made up the funding difference by taking millions of dollars from the traditional public schools in St. Louis City and Kansas City. St. Louis Public Schools parents and school board members went to Jefferson City to advocate against that version of the legislation.

In the end, the legislature found a compromise and will close the funding gap with money from the state, rather than from the public school districts. Leaders from both the charter and traditional public schools were happy with the compromise.

“We're pleased that the bill did not take away any funding from St. Louis public schools,” said Matt Davis, president of St. Louis Public Schools’ board of education. “They were trying to pit the school district against charter schools over this funding when it was ultimately something that the state should just fund everybody adequately.”

The funding gap exists because charter school funding was tied to property values from 2005, while traditional public school funding kept up with current values.

“The students have not had the benefit of property values increasing,” Thaman said. “That's a lot of money when it comes to ensuring that children are receiving a quality education.”

Leaders from St. Louis Public Schools were opposed to the original plan to close that gap, in part because they say the district provides services that charter schools are not obligated to provide.

“The more at-risk kids tend to fall disproportionately to the school districts to educate,” Davis said. “While that's our privilege to do so, it also is more expensive.”

Next fiscal year, the bill will cost the state between $62.2 million and $74.9 million in general revenue, according to the bill’s fiscal summary.

Charter schools will receive significantly more per student, said Thaman. He said schools are planning to spend that money on things like technology, transportation and even compensation for teachers.

Confluence Academies in St. Louis City expects to receive almost $2,000 more per student, said CEO Candice Carter-Oliver.

“I am extremely excited,” Carter-Oliver said. “It's really being able to do more in some spaces and expansion in others, and then it's bringing in new opportunities for kids and families as well.”

She was also happy with the compromise.

“I'm particularly pleased that it doesn't necessarily remove money from the St Louis Public Schools children,” Carter-Oliver said. “I'm hopeful that we begin to collaborate even more among each other.”

Friday was the last day of Missouri’s 2022 legislative session. Parson has until July 14 to sign the bill.

Sarah Kellogg contributed to this report. 

Follow Kate on Twitter: @KGrumke 

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