It is not uncommon for the Hannibal Board of Education to stay abreast of proposed legislation that would impact education. However, during its March 15 meeting it went a step further and approved a resolution that opposes a bill that would allow the expansion of charter schools within the state.

It is not uncommon for the Hannibal Board of Education to stay abreast of proposed legislation that would impact education. However, during its March 15 meeting it went a step further and approved a resolution that opposes a bill that would allow the expansion of charter schools within the state.

House Bill 634, which was introduced by state Rep. Rebecca Roeber (R-Lee’s Summit), would allow the expansion of charter schools in first class counties, such as Lincoln County. Currently they are only permitted in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas.

After hearing a report from Superintendent Susan Johnson on the impact the bill could have if approved, the school board was ready to take up the resolution, which it approved unanimously.

Was Johnson surprised by the board’s willingness to take a public stand?

“Not at all,” she said. “The board has always been very supportive of public schools. I think the board members are very aware of what is going on in our government. They’re always looking out for the best interest of not only our schools, but all public schools, so when I shared that (information) with them I purposely brought the resolution with me because I thought that might be the case.”

Johnson believes HB 634 would be “devastating to public education” because of the tax revenue that charter schools would receive.

“It’s going to take public tax dollars which is what we rely on to help operate our schools,” she said. “We’re already getting less and less money from the state. And while I’m grateful for what (state) money we do get, it (receiving less state money) means for us to continue what we’re doing we’re going to have to ask more of our community and that’s not the right thing to do. We’ve always wanted to be very fair with our community and only take what we had to have. That’s something I’m very proud of.”

Johnson contends that the education standards for charter schools would not be as rigid as those governing public schools.

“It’s not fair that public schools have to follow certain rules and we’re held accountable, but now other schools, like charter schools, can receive the same public monies yet have none of the accountability that we have. I just can’t understand how that’s fair,” she said.

Johnson says that charter schools would not have to serve all students as public school districts do.

“I take great pride that in public education we educate all children. It doesn’t matter your race. It doesn’t matter your gender, if you have a learning disability, or if there’s some kind of a special-need situation. I think we do a good job of educating all children,” said the superintendent. “Under the charter expansion bill those charter schools, which would receive a portion of those public tax dollars, wouldn’t necessarily have to serve those kids. They could pick and choose which kids they want to provide services to. I don’t think that’s fair for the children in this state.”

Reportedly HB 634 has cleared the House Rules Committee and is now waiting debate on the House floor. If approved in the House it would then move to the Senate for consideration.

Reach reporter Danny Henley at danny.henley@courierpost.com