To The Editor:

Until now, charter schools have been limited to only urban areas but some lawmakers want to allow them to operate throughout the Show-Me state. 

Charter schools are defined as independent public schools. This means they receive state funding like traditional public schools, but they have far greater freedom to operate and aren’t constrained by all the red tape that traditional public schools have to abide by. 

In other words, they’re publicly financed but privately operated. Charters are sometimes run by national management organizations and private boards instead of locally elected school boards. Proponents say charters offer parents the option to send their child to a different public school, which is tied to the notion of school choice and vouchers — also currently being promoted in Missouri.

At first glance, charters don’t appear to be that much different from traditional public schools but if you look under the hood, you’ll see that our local public schools are held to much higher standards than their independent counterparts. Some examples: Not all charter teachers have to be licensed to teach in Missouri. Charter schools can be more selective regarding which students they enroll; this can have an impact on metrics such as test score averages, graduation rates, and the like. 

Charters have more freedom when it comes to curriculum and instruction — our local schools must provide instructional programs of study across all subject areas as required by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). 

Statewide charter school expansion could be written into law this year. Think it won’t happen here? Think again. Washington is on a long list of potentially impacted schools. 

Charter school proponents are quick to point out that if our traditional public schools were doing a good job, there wouldn’t be a need for alternative educational programs. The truth is, we have many public schools that can and should be doing a better job educating students. 

But simply allowing more schools to set up shop and draw state funding without sufficient accountability is not the way to improve our neighborhood schools. It will simply starve them down until our public education system is no longer able to function — thereby opening yet another door — the one leading to privatization. Is that really the choice Missourians want to make?

For a more detailed commentary about this issue, see