Nationwide more than 1.8 million students attend charter schools. If Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signs new legislation passed earlier this month that number could be higher.

SB 576 is the first major piece of charter school legislation since 1998 when Missouri passed its first law allowing charter schools law was passed. The bill would expand charter schools statewide, while making it easier to close under-performing ones.

Currently, charter schools are limited to St. Louis and Kansas City and enroll 20,000 students.

Supporters say allowing charter schools to open statewide will inspire innovation and give parents more options. The Show-Me Institute’s Audrey Spalding hailed the change:

“If charter schools can help students in St. Louis and Kansas City, why can’t charter schools help students in Springfield and Columbia?”

Missouri Public Charter School Association Executive Director Dr. Douglas Thaman agreed. “We believe it is important that all of Missouri’s families have an opportunity to choose the public educational option best for their children,” said Thaman. “This legislation will provide more families across the state access to quality charter schools held accountable to high standards of academic performance and operational management.”

On May 15 the Missouri House of Representatives passed SB 576 by a vote of 99-54, and the Senate passed it earlier during the legislative session by a vote of 31-2. The bill is now with the Governor, who has until July 14 to act on the legislation.  If he signs the bill, it would go into effect on August 28.

Now that would be a great back-to-school gift for Show-Me State students.