Advocates for public schools are urging the Missouri Legislature to bolster funding for public education, rather than shift resources towards charter schools and school voucher programs.
A bill pending in the House would provide tax credits for paying for private school tuition.
Another would change school funding formulas to give more resources to charter schools specifically in St. Louis, where public schools could lose up to $17 million a year.
Rev. Dr. Adrian Hendricks, founder of The Center for Change and Community Life in Jefferson City, joined teachers unions and other advocates to oppose the bills.
“Anywhere where we’re looking to move funds away from the local school district, as opposed to putting the effort into stabilizing those school districts, when you look at the long-term consequences of these decisions, they’re not the best choice for tackling education reform in Missouri,” Hendricks contended.
Another bill, this one before the state Senate, would support charter-school expansion beyond St. Louis and Kansas City. It also would take away local control in St. Louis of the sale or lease of city-owned land to charter schools.
Hendricks noted underserved communities, deeply rural communities, deeply urban communities, and Black and brown communities, are the most impacted by funding disparities.
He argued policymakers need to spend more time listening to constituents across the state and responding to their needs, from supporting local efforts to recruit and retain teachers and graduating first-generation students to improving mentorship and engaging students in workforce development.
“The problem is, we have education systems that go in cookie-cutter fashions that are not serving the students or serving those communities at the degree that those communities need, or those families need,” Hendricks asserted.
He added it’s not the first time these issues have come to the Legislature. Underserved communities have been battling for level public school funding for decades.