Missouri Charter School Law: A Soup Sandwich for Military Families?
The Show-Me State forbids charter schools from opening in non-urban, accredited school districts, unless they are sponsored by the district itself. In effect, this means public school choice is limited to residents of unaccredited districts in Saint Louis and Kansas City. However, the need for school choice extends beyond those confines. This is especially apparent to Missouri’s military families.
Fort Leonard Wood, a U.S. military base located in the Ozarks, resides in Waynesville School District, which is home to 4,500 military impacted students. Educating these students can be difficult, since many have attended several school districts in several states within a span of just a few years.
These students come from a variety of backgrounds and have varying educational needs.
Waynesville School District is the only option for many students living on the base. Though the district performs relatively well compared to struggling urban districts, it is unfortunate that charter schools are not permitted in this area. Charters essentially are specialized public schools that serve the unique needs of students.
In other communities, if parents are dissatisfied with the performance of their school district, they can move into another district. For military families, this is nearly impossible. This highlights just one problem of Missouri’s restrictive charter law—it disproportionately limits military families’ access to the school of their choice.
Some states have recognized how charter schools can meet the unique needs of military students. There are currently eight charter schools located on military bases across the United States. One such charter school is Sigsbee in Key West, Florida, which offers coursework in environmental science and marine life. Another is Belle Chasse Academy in Belle Chasse, Louisiana, specifically designed to address the diverse academic backgrounds of students whose parents are on active duty.
Military personnel already make sacrifices for their country; they should not have to sacrifice their children’s education as well. The expansion of charter schools is just one way Missourians can provide more access to better quality education for military families.
For more information about charter school reform, read James Shuls’ case study on the Louisiana Recovery School District.