Pass the ‘FAIR Act’ to protect workers, consumers from forced arbitration


Jefferson City – The Missouri Senate is poised to send a major education package to the House that attempts to solve a funding dispute between charter and traditional public schools in the city of St. Louis and Kansas City.

Senators on April 6 gave preliminary approval to the package. It awaits a final vote, likely this week, before going back to the House, which approved the original funding measure last month.

In St. Louis City, the House-approved legislation would have diverted approximately $18 million from the school district to charters, in effect defunding public schools to support charters which presently have no state or taxpayer oversight.

Proponents said the measure was intended to fairly fund charter schools. Opponents said the change would defund St. Louis and Kansas City public schools, and amount to taxation without representation.

Charter schools only operate in St. Louis and Kansas City. The sponsor of the House Bill, Doug Richey (R-Excelsior Springs) doesn’t have any charters in his district.

Senators Doug Beck (D-Affton) and Jill Schupp (D-Creve Coeur) filibustered the House-approved measure for two-and-a-half hours in the Senate before it was set aside. Beck started his political career on the Affton School Board. Schupp served six years on the Ladue School Board.

After stalling the bill in the Senate, Beck began working the halls of the State Capitol, negotiating changes to protect public school funding. The resulting Senate version of the legislation would increase state funding to charter schools through the foundation formula, rather than diverting local money that would go to St. Louis Public Schools.

Under the proposed Senate legislation, the $18 million that would have gone to charters will stay in public schools and the state will pay for any increased funding charters.

“Currently, the way charters are configured is taxation without representation,” Beck said. “This will correct that. The way it’s been, the local school district would get the tax increase and the charters would come in a take it. This will actually hold charters responsible, and that’s good for the kids.”

“They’re not going to have to give up those local dollars that they have been collecting,” Schupp said. “And the charter schools will get the additional monies they need through a line item in the budget.

“At the end of the day, we want every child educated,” she said

Because the Legislature will control the purse strings, the change also will position the state to have more oversight of charters.

“Once we get funding from the state side, we should be able to get more accountability with the APR (Annual Performance Report) and standardized test scores,” Beck said. “Anything we put on public schools, we’ll be able to put on charters.”

The APR measures student achievement, as well as growth and progress. It is the state’s way of showing how school districts are doing, and is the largest factor in how the Missouri State Board of Education determines accreditation.

“HB1552 was not a good bill as originally written. We are pleased that St. Louis area Senators found a funding mechanism that doesn’t ’defund’ public school districts and adds some accountability to the governing process,” said Ray Cummings, president of AFT Local 420, which represent St. Louis Public Schools teachers. “Organized Labor stood in solidarity on this critical issue and we appreciate it. Thanks to those Senators that stood up for public school districts and taxpayers. We know the process isn’t over.”FAIR Act

The Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal (FAIR) Act has passed the U.S. House and is awaiting final action in the Senate.

Forced arbitration agreements allow large employers, insurers, lenders, and financial services companies to consistently tip the scales in their favor at the expense of everyday working people and consumers by forcing individuals to give up their right to access to the courts if they wish to begin a job, open a credit card account, obtain a loan, receive nursing home services, use a cell phone, or access other critical goods and services.

The FAIR Act (H.R. 963) would ensure workers, consumers, servicemembers, nursing home residents, ordinary investors, and small businesses harmed by bad actors will be able to bring valid claims in court, and would not be forced into private, secretive, corporate-controlled arbitration systems required by non-negotiable contracts.

“In addition to making people more vulnerable to abuse by bad corporate actors, forced arbitration agreements and class action waivers are an impediment to the enjoyment of basic civil and human rights,” the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a 230-organization coalition wrote of the bill.

The organization added, “The most vulnerable working people are also the most likely to be trapped into forced arbitration agreements that undermine the ability to enforce these very laws. Forced arbitration is much more common among the lowest-paid workforces, and industries that have disproportionate numbers of women and Black and brown workers.”

“The FAIR Act is critical legislation that would restore access to justice for millions of Americans who are currently locked out of the court system and are forced to settle their disputes against companies in a private system of arbitration that is often skewed in the company’s favor over the individual,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said in a March 17 statement on the House Floor.

“Private arbitration has been transformed by 40 years of reckless Supreme Court decisions from a voluntary forum for companies to resolve commercial disputes into a legal nightmare for millions of consumers, employees, and others who are forced into arbitration and are unable to enforce certain fundamental rights in court,” Nadler said.

“By burying a forced arbitration clause deep in the fine print of take-it-or-leave-it consumer and employment contracts, companies can evade the court system—where plaintiffs have far greater legal protections—and hide wrongdoing behind a one-sided process that is tilted in their favor.”

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