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Government, Politics & Issues

Mo. joint committee looks at avoiding potential mass exodus from unaccredited schools

(Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio)
Members of the House-Senate Interim Committee on School Accreditation listen to testimony Wednesday (Sept. 28, 2011) at the State Capitol.

A state legislative committee heard testimony today on what options should be considered for students enrolled at unaccredited schools in Missouri.  It’s part of another effort to address a recent State Supreme Court ruling.

Turner v. Clayton affirmed that students not only have the right to transfer away from an unaccredited school district, but that the failing district has to pick up the tab.  State and local officials fear it could lead to a mass exodus from schools in St. Louis, Kansas City and Riverview Gardens.

Enforcement of the ruling is on hold as the case has been sent down to a lower court.  State Representative Scott Dieckhaus (R, Washington) co-chairs the joint House-Senate committee looking into the matter.

“We're trying to be fair to all school districts involved and trying to find that balance," Dieckhaus said.  "The balance has been really tough to strike between making sure that we guarantee the rights of students in unaccredited districts, and not imposing on other school districts (that) are content with where they are in class size or culture.”

Joe Knodell with the group Missouri Education Reform Council told the Joint Interim Committee on School Accreditation that one possible solution would be to allow statewide open enrollment.

“I’d ask that you think of the plight of these students and parents that are kind of trapped by their zip code into these unaccredited or so-called failing schools, and hopefully a solution can be found for that," Knodell said.

Other possible solutions mentioned include expanded access to charter schools and online classes.  The joint committee also plans to hold hearings in St. Louis and Kansas City in the coming weeks.


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