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Pre-Filed Bill Seeks To Curb Thousands Of Potential Student Transfers In Kansas City

Missouri Senate
Mo. Sen. Paul LeVota (D, Independence)

A proposal to circumvent thousands of potential student transfers in the Kansas City area may be considered by the Missouri General Assembly next year.

If passed, Senate Bill 624 would allow local school districts to set class sizes and student-to-teacher ratios, and once reached, those districts could not be forced to accept transfer students from unaccredited school districts. It's been pre-filed by state Sen. Paul LeVota, D-Independence.

"It's an idea that doesn't rule out any type of transfers, but yet, it makes it local control, and (it) makes sure that a receiving district isn't overflowing with capacity they can't handle," LeVota said.

The pre-filed bill would also bar the State Board of Education from lowering a school district's accreditation status if there's a vacancy on the State Board that represents the congressional district where the affected school district is located.

LeVota's proposal comes one day after a Missouri Supreme Court ruling that clears the way for students to transfer from the Kansas City school district to nearby accredited districts.  He says he thinks his proposal will pass constitutional muster.

"We are making it the school board's responsibility to identify what's best for their students," LeVota said.  "I think that way it will make sense and clear up any of the issues that we have now."

LeVota says solving the student transfer dilemma a bipartisan issue, and that he's open to hearing proposals that may come from other lawmakers, including Republicans.

Other legislators may also put some bills forward. Earlier this month, a Missouri House panel, which had held hearings on education throughout the state this fall, issued a report with several suggestions for reforming the transfer law. Some recommendations, such as a tuition cap, could be incorporated into legislation.

Also, this fall, state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, told the St. Louis Beacon that said she would expected to draft a bill to rebuild unaccredited districts, preserve gains made by those on the bubble and sustain those who are solidly in the accredited category. At the time, she said she is trying to prevent a "domino effect" when tougher school evaluations starting in 2015 might push other districts, such as Kansas City, into unaccredited territory.

Missouri's 2014 legislative session begins next month.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.

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