Governor Jay Nixon (D) has called on House and Senate lawmakers who have worked on a proposed fix to Missouri’s transfer law to remove language that would let local tax dollars pay for students to transfer to private schools.
The legislative conference committee updated the so-called “private option” so that after three years of a school district being unaccredited, private schools would become one of the places its students could transfer, though a public vote could result in that happening earlier.
Nixon says keeping public funds in public schools is a core state belief and is written into Missouri’s Constitution.
He says the legislature’s current proposal, “would destabilize the strong foundation on which public education has stood for generations and open the floodgates to even more radical voucher schemes down the road.”
The House sponsor of transfer legislation, Representative Rick Stream (R-Kirkwood), says he doesn’t think a bill will pass the Senate if it lacks the private school language.
He disagrees with Nixon’s assessment that the Missouri Constitution bars the use of public money in private schools.
“The Constitution says we cannot spend public dollars on religious institutions … religious schools,” says Stream. “I don’t believe that the Constitution says we cannot spend public dollars on private companies or private schools that are nonsectarian. We do that already in the budget. About a third of our budget is public money going to private providers.”
Stream says Nixon has failed to lead on the transfer issue.
“Since this problem started back in June with the last Supreme Court decision the governor has pretty much been out of the picture. He hasn’t offered any solutions, given any advice other than to say once the Senate passed overwhelmingly a bill that had the private option in it that he was going to veto it,” says Stream. “I think the students, the children of those two school districts deserve a little bit more than that from the Governor.”
The House-Senate committee’s proposed law is still being published ahead of being taken up by both chambers to consider passing it to Nixon. They have until Friday evening, the end of the regular session, to pass it.