March 17, 2017

Capitol Report

By Rick Francis, state representative

JEFFERSON CITY – Missouri’s 145th District State Representative Rick Francis has released this week’s Capitol Report:

Charter School Expansion Bill Receives House Approval (HB 634)

House members gave approval to legislation meant to provide young people in failing schools with additional educational opportunities. The bill would allow charter schools to expand to areas where at least one school is performing poorly.

The legislation would increase the accountability and academic requirements for not only new charter schools, but existing ones as well. The bill would limit charter school expansion to districts that have a school building with an Annual Performance Report (APR) score of 60 or lower in two of the last three years. If a charter underperforms in comparison to similar schools in their district for two of the past three years, they will be limited to a three-year charter renewal. During this three year probationary period, and if a charter performs poorly during two of the three years, that charter school will be ineligible for renewal and will be forced to close. Additionally, the bill is contingent on the public school foundation formula being fully funded. If the K-12 formula is not fully funded, then no charter school changes go into effect.

I voted no on this bill because charter schools have not performed well at all. The bill does not provide enough accountability for charter schools. Major problems exist in charter schools and need to be fixed before expanding charters to other parts of the state.

House Budget Committee Unveils Spending Proposal that Fully Funds Education

Missouri’s public schools would be fully funded for the first time under the budget proposal unveiled by the House Budget Committee Chairman this week. The proposed spending plan would also restore a proposed cut to in-home care and nursing home services for senior and disabled Missourians.

The 13 appropriations bills that will make up the Fiscal Year 2018 state operating budget represent the legislature’s commitment to its young people, as well as to its most vulnerable citizens. In addition to the additional $48 million that will fully fund the School Foundation Formula, the House budget proposal restores proposed cuts to K-12 transportation funding. The plan also secures $6 million in funding to increase broadband internet access for Missouri schools. Additionally, the House budget plan restores $21.75 million in proposed cuts for the state’s institutions of higher learning.

The FY 2018 spending plan proposed by the House Budget Committee also restores approximately $52 million in proposed cuts that would have impacted 20,000 seniors and disabled Missourians who currently qualify for state-funded in-home care and nursing home services.

Other notable funding decisions in the House plan include $3.5 million to fulfill the state’s commitment to the Biodiesel Producer Incentive Fund, record levels of funding for the state employee pension plan, and $1.4 million to fund a system of voter identification in Missouri. The House Budget Committee will work to finalize the budget bills and send them to the floor. House Leaders plan to discuss the bills on the House floor and have them out of the House by April 6. The Senate and House will then have until May 5 to agree to a spending plan and send it to the governor.

Supporting Missouri’s Sheltered Workshops (HCR 28)

This week, House members approved a resolution and showed their support for the thousands of Missourians with developmental disabilities who develop professional skills in the state’s sheltered workshops. Currently, more than 6,300 Missourians with developmental disabilities are employed by Missouri’s 92 sheltered workshops, with another 1,100 waiting to work.

Unlike many states, Missouri does not use federal dollars to fund the workshops. Instead, the workshops generate as much as 70 to 80 percent of their funding from contract services, and then receive additional funds from their county and the state.