Nixon plans veto of school transfer bill
Updated at 9:30 am on Friday, June 6.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon plans to veto this year’s version of a school transfer bill, legislative sources said Thursday.
Nixon had planned to make a formal announcement of his decision Friday morning in Springfield, Mo., but that stop was canceled because of weather. His office said he still is expected to visit Ritenour High School in north St. Louis County Friday afternoon. Word of his planned veto was first disclosed by the Springfield News-Leader newspaper, which quoted state Rep. David Wood, R-Versailles, who sponsored the bill in the General Assembly this year.
At an appearance earlier this week in the Normandy school district, Nixon said he was still studying the bill, HB42, which would have expanded charter schools and virtual schools but would not have put a cap on tuition that unaccredited school districts pay to districts where their students transferred. Many districts have agreed to such a cap voluntarily under an agreement Nixon and area school superintendents announced earlier this week.
Wood told St. Louis Public Radio that one of Nixon’s main objections to the bill was the expansion of virtual schools. Asked whether he would try to tackle the issue of student transfers again, Wood said no.
"In terms of the transfer process, I can say that I will not be filing (a bill)," Wood said. "In my discussions with the Senate, they don't have a real appetite to go at it again. So, I do not believe another bill will go through in the next year or two."
Wood said he was, however, encouraged by St. Louis area school districts announcing earlier this week that they planned to share resources with both the unaccredited Normandy and Riverview Gardens School Districts. Yet he noted that the plan fell short of a long-term strategy for student transfers.
"There is no process," Wood said. "We had one in House Bill 42 that would have given an order to everything, and an authority to everything as to where the transfers actually went.”
Lawmakers sent the bill to Nixon in early May. It passed the Senate 23-11, a margin just large enough to override a veto. But the passage in the House, 84-73, is far short of what is needed for any veto override.
In a separate interview, state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, criticized Nixon’s plans to veto the bill. She said she had been notified of the decision earlier Thursday afternoon. Asked why she thought the governor would reject the bill, she replied:
“I don’t know why. We made all of the changes he wanted.”
Educators on both sides of the issue had lobbied Nixon on what they wanted him to do with the bill. Those who favored his signing the bill said it would expand educational options for students in unaccredited districts. But those who favored a veto said Missouri already underfunds public education, and more charters and virtual schools would spread that money even thinner.
Chappelle-Nadal, who has been heavily involved in writing school legislation since the Missouri Supreme Court upheld the state’s transfer law two years ago, said Nixon had indicated late last year that what lawmakers were working toward was something he could support.
“He said absolutely nothing between January and May,” she said. “So, we were under the impression that everything was okay.”
Last summer Nixon vetoed a transfer bill because it included the option of using tax money for transfers to private schools. Chapelle-Nadal noted that lawmakers took that option out of this year’s version. Now, she said, she doesn’t know what the governor wants.
”He didn’t have a plan in 2013,” said Chappelle-Nadal, who also sits on the University City school board. "He didn’t have a plan in 2014. He didn’t have a plan in 2015. There are three branches of government. Two of them have said what they think Normandy needs. Why hasn’t the governor said what he wants?”
Chappelle-Nadal said that nearly 80 percent of the students in unaccredited schools in Missouri are African-American. Noting Nixon’s opposition to school desegregation in St. Louis when he was attorney general, she said his latest decision continues a long-term trend.
“This is separate and unequal,” she said. “The governor has a 30-year history of failing when it comes to urban education. You need to ask him what is his plan.”