UPDATE: Missouri Senate endorses education legislation

Wednesday, February 26, 2014 | 9:31 p.m. CST

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri senators have endorsed education legislation that seeks to address a student transfer law and unaccredited school districts.

The state's student transfer law currently requires that unaccredited districts pay for students to transfer to better-performing nearby public schools. It has led to financial problems and generated concern about controlling the number of students.

Under the legislation, students who attend a struggling school could transfer to a better school. Those enrolled at a troubled school in an unaccredited district could go to another district or nonsectarian private school. The state also could begin paying some transfer costs and receiving schools could establish transfer policies.

The bill won first-round approval Wednesday and needs another affirmative vote to move to the House.

On Wednesday, senators embraced a provision that could lead to the state starting to pay some transfer costs. If the school board of a district that receives transfers sets its tuition at less than 90 percent of what it is entitled, a newly established state fund would add an extra 10 percent. If school systems offer a bigger discount — at least 30 percent — then state evaluations of the district would not include performance data from transfer students for at least five years.

Senators have been debating an education bill for the past two days that seeks to address the transfer law and Missouri's unaccredited school districts. Discussion continued into the evening hours Wednesday.

Students have transferred this academic year from the Normandy and Riverview Gardens districts in St. Louis County and could start in Kansas City, which also is unaccredited. An additional 11 districts are provisionally accredited. Separately, legislators are considering a $5 million rescue to get Normandy through the school year, and the State Board of Education has imposed financial oversight over the district.

Besides tuition costs, the Senate legislation also calls for accreditation of individual school buildings. Those attending a struggling school could move to a better building within their home districts. Students enrolled at a troubled school in an unaccredited district could transfer out if they have lived there for at least a year and there is not room within a high-performing school in the district where they live.

Students could transfer to another school system or enroll in a nonsectarian private school within their home district with the unaccredited district using its funds to pay at least some of the tuition. Private schools would need to be accredited and administer state English and math tests for transfer students from public schools.


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