JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri education officials will be able to intervene sooner in the state's struggling school districts under a measure signed into law Friday by Gov. Jay Nixon.
Current procedure under state law gives school districts that lose accreditation two years before state education officials can step in. Legislation signed by the governor removes the waiting period and expands the menu of options for governing unaccredited school districts. The state Board of Education now will be allowed to prescribe conditions under which the existing local school board can remain in place, establish a special administrative board, merge the schools with neighboring ones, split the district into several new schools or design an alternative.
However, there will be a time limit for a local school board to improve if it is permitted to remain. State education officials will be required to select a different approach if the unaccredited district has not regained accreditation after three academic years or if the state Board of Education determines after two years that academic progress is not on track toward earning accreditation in the next year.
The school law takes effect Aug. 28.
Missouri has three unaccredited school districts. The Normandy School District in St. Louis County became unaccredited effective this past January. The Kansas City School District has not been accredited since Jan. 1, 2012, and the district is to lapse June 30, 2014. A special administrative board oversees the Riverview Gardens School District in St. Louis County that also is unaccredited.
Changes to how officials approach Missouri's unaccredited districts required two years to enact. Last year, a similar proposal bogged down amid political jockeying over whether to pursue broader changes within the state's school system. Final passage of this year's measure came after House leaders dropped an attempt to include changes in how educators are evaluated.