The Missouri Senate has begun debate on legislation to lessen the effects of the state's student transfer law.
The wide-ranging bill attempts to address both the law and unaccredited districts. Provisions within Senate Bill 493 include accrediting individual school buildings instead of districts as a whole and creating regional authorities across the state to oversee transfers.
As Missouri education officials continue to gather public comment on what the state should do to help unaccredited school districts, one sentiment became clear Wednesday night:
The public needs to have a strong voice in whatever plans are adopted.
In the second of four hearings in the latest round of attempts by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to gauge public sentiment about a variety of plans put forth so far, about 200 people showed up at the J.C. Penney Auditorium on the campus of the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
The vote came a week before a new state law takes effect that will allow Missouri to move more quickly towards taking over unaccredited school districts. Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro says state officials will soon begin to heighten their presence in those districts.
Normandy schools had been under provisional accreditation for the past year, but had been “on thin ice,” in the words of State Board Member Peter Herschend (R, Branson). He says the district has again failed to meet the minimum nine out of 14 performance standards required for accreditation.
“If you look at the academic results in all of the core content areas, save one, they are at the bottom end of attainment," Herschend said. "Do I think that’s significant? You’re damn right I think that’s significant!”
The Missouri Supreme Court is deciding whether the Webster Groves school district must enroll a student from the city of St. Louis.
The court heard arguments Wednesday on a case related to Missouri law that allows students from unaccredited districts to transfer to accredited districts. State lawmakers are also considering how to implement or revise the law. Three school systems in St. Louis and Kansas City are unaccredited.
A Mo. Senate committee hears testimony on legislation designed to address the Mo. Supreme Court's ruling in Turner v. Clayton, allowing students from unaccredited districts to transfer to adjacent accredited ones.
Legislation that’s designed to stop a potential mass exodus of students from unaccredited schools in St. Louis and Kansas City to nearby suburban schools was heard Tuesday before a Missouri Senate committee.
The bill’s provisions include scholarships for kids in unaccredited public schools to attend private schools, and it would allow accredited schools to open charter schools in unaccredited districts. Tina Hardin of St. Louis spoke in favor of the bill. Her son was accepted into a Catholic school, but says she can’t afford to send him there.
Missouri lawmakers will again push legislation aimed at preventing an exodus of Kansas City and St. Louis students from their failing schools and overwhelming neighboring districts.
The Missouri Supreme Court ruled last year that students living in unaccredited districts are owed free transfers and that accredited schools must take the students. The courts continue to work out the details.