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House Committee Passes Charter Schools Bill

March 03, 1998
By: Margaret Murphy
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - An attempt by a state House member to effectively exempt all local school districts from state education regulations by allowing them to form as charter school districts was defeated Tuesday by a House Education Committee.

The amendment, offered by Rep. Jewell Patek, R-Chillicothe, was hastily introduced and quickly defeated as members of the House Education Committee were debating whether to allow public charter schools to be formed in just the St. Louis and Kansas City school districts.

Patek said the amendment was a back-door attempt to allow local public school boards to take public education money, but ditch the state regulations that usually comes with it.

"It's a true local amendment," he said, adding nothing in the district would change except "burdensome rules and regulations."

Patek said instead of focusing on establishing charter schools, which he said would drain students and resources from the public schools, the Legislature should instead turn its attention to reducing the education regulations that tie the hands of local school districts.

After his amendment was defeated, Patek voted against the main bill to allow public charter schools in the two urban areas. The bill passed the committee, 12-9.

"In my talks with school administrators in my district, most of my school officials have come out opposing the bill," Patek said. "It's the nose underneath the camel's tent. They don't want two systems of education."

The bill's sponsor and chairman of the committee, Rep. Steve Stoll, D-Festus, said the bill would offer some additional public options to parents and students in the two cities.

"There are 8,500 dropouts in St. Louis," Stoll said. "(The bill) allows people to reach out and do something different to get kids some kind of education."

Stoll said that charter schools would be publicly funded, nonsectarian schools established by parents, teachers or interested citizens. The local, state and federal funds would follow the student to the charter school. In return for being freed from many of the state's regulations, the school would have to show its students had adequate test scores or it would be shut down.

Patek said he would try to get his amendment attached to the bill again by introducing it when the bill moves to the full House to be debated and voted on by all 163 House members.

A charter school bill has also been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Franc Flotron, R-St. Louis County. More than Patek's attempt to craft a bill that focuses on state regulations, Flotron's bill would allow charter schools to be established anywhere in the state, not just St. Louis or Kansas City, if the local school board voted to allow them.

The Senate Education Committee is expected to vote on that bill today.

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