COLUMBIA — Central Missouri school superintendents expressed concern this week about the prospect of open enrollment, citing funding issues and the possibility of overcrowding.
The Missouri Senate education committee convened Wednesday to discuss a bill that would allow for open enrollment among Missouri public schools except for Kansas City and St. Louis schools districts. There are several issues about the proposed bill that concern some Missouri superintendents.
They agreed that the bill could prompt negative consequences, adding that it was still too early to predict the implications.
Chris Belcher, superintendent of Columbia Public Schools, said that the district already has 164 trailers on school property, so the number of students they could take is at maximum.
Under the proposed bill, school districts could refuse to admit students if taking them would infringe on class size and teacher-student ratio.
“I don’t see this as problematic for Columbia schools because we couldn’t take on any more students at this point,” Belcher said.
Columbia schools have a mandatory waiver policy, allowing students with a proven hardship outside the district to live with a relative or friend in the school district and attend the city schools.
“This is already a form of enrollment that we don’t have authority over,” Belcher said.
He also worried that open enrollment would add a financial burden to school districts.
Under the legislative proposal, students who enroll in other districts would be considered part of their district of residence for funding purposes.
The district of residence would pay the receiving district the cost for the student to attend the new school.
Belcher, however, doubted that formula would cover actual costs.
“If a student from another district came here, we would receive funds from the state for average daily attendance and support from property taxes from the district of residence, but that still would not cover the cost,” he said.
Jacque Cowherd, the superintendent of schools in Fulton, agreed that the amount paid to the receiving district would not cover the cost of a educating a new student.
Centralia's superintendent, Darin Ford, pointed out the possibility that an open enrollment bill would create unproductive competition among school districts.
“We are all cooperative right now, and this might cause a lot of issues,” Ford said.