Gov. Jay Nixon tonight will sign into law a bill that requires greater accountability from charter schools and their sponsors in academic performance and financial viability. The Governor plans to sign Senate Bill 576 during a ceremony at Missouri Girls State, which is being held in Warrensburg.
Earlier today, he discussed the bill with reporters during a telephone news conference. Charter school reform was one of the legislative priorities Gov. Nixon outlined during his State of the State Address in January.
"I called on the Legislature to send me a comprehensive charter school accountability bill that holds all charter schools - and their sponsors - to high standards of academic achievement and financial integrity," Gov. Nixon said. "While we have charter schools in Missouri that are strong, it's quite clear there are charter schools where students languish in classrooms that don't meet academic standards, in schools that aren't well managed."
Gov. Nixon pointed to examples from both St. Louis and Kansas City of charter schools that had failed, including the Renaissance Academy for Math and Science, the Ethel Hedgeman Lyle Academy, and multiple campuses of the Imagine Schools.
"The failure of a charter school impacts the community and our state, and it is a serious setback for the students and parents the school is supposed to serve," the Governor said. "It is evident that reform had to occur, and that stronger accountability standards were necessary."
The Governor's administration worked with legislators on both sides of the aisle to craft a bill that put tougher standards on sponsors of charter schools, and gave the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education greater oversight to make sure sponsors and charter schools met academic and financial standards.
Among the provisions of Senate Bill 576:
As of August 28th, prospective new sponsors of charter schools will go through an application and approval process with DESE. Those applications must include information on budget; personnel; the performance framework for oversight and evaluation of the school; and the sponsor's policies for renewal, revocation, and non-renewal of charters.
After a sponsor is approved, DESE will continue with its evaluation of the sponsor to make certain the sponsorship standards are met. DESE will take action if it determines a sponsor is non-compliant, including requiring remediation of the problem, and failing remediation, possible suspension of the sponsorship and withholding of sponsorship funds.
Sponsors will have to enter into legally-binding performance contracts with their chartered schools. Those contracts will set academic and financial performance measures that must be met, or the schools risk being placed on probation, or even closed.
If a school fails to meet specific performance standards, the sponsor will be required to intervene.
Beginning this October, and then on an annual basis, DESE also will identify charter schools that are experiencing financial stress, and report those schools to the Governor and General Assembly. Those schools will have to prepare a budget and educational plan to address that financial stress and submit it to the sponsor.
DESE will have the authority to withhold funding until there is compliance with the requirements.
These accountability provisions also provide a clear framework to allow the expansion of charter schools in other parts of the state.
"These are tough, but necessary, measures to ensure greater accountability - both fiscally and academically - on the part of our charter schools," Gov. Nixon said. "They will help charter schools provide a better education to students, and a better return on public education dollars to taxpayers. I am pleased that the General Assembly responded to my call to strengthen public education in Missouri and passed this bill, and I look forward to signing it."