JEFFERSON CITY - Charter schools may be expanding into more school districts but only after being held accountable for their performance.
The bill would create higher accountability standards for charter schools as well as allowing them to expand to more unaccredited districts. Charter schools are public schools that operate outside the traditional district. Currently, charters can only be sponsored by a higher educational institution or a school board in St. Louis or Kansas City.
"I think with having the sponsor more hands on and more accountable, (the sponsor) can intervene more quickly," the bill's sponsor, Rep. Tishaura Jones, D-St. Louis said.
Legislators have been calling for greater accountability and transparency after two charter schools in St. Louis unexpectedly closed their doors last year.
While the bill passed the committee with a vote of 14-4, those in opposition were vocal about their concerns.
"I want to see the accountability standards put in place and I want to see them work before we see any expansion," Rep. Ira Anders, D-Independence said. "That's why I will be opposing this bill."
Jones said the bill holds charter schools to the same standards as other schools and that sponsors would be required to keep tabs on the schools.
"We went through this bill line by line and made sure that everyone knew what they were responsible for," Jones said.
However, Rep. Sara Lampe, D-Springfield said she was concerned that private management companies, like the group that operated the now-closed St. Louis charter schools, would take state money away from students.
"We only have so much money for children," Lampe said. "When that money goes to a third group, less of it is going to the children."
After significant debate, neither of Lampe's proposed amendments were accepted. The committee adopted their version of the bill, which will now go to the full House for debate.