July 1, 2015

School transfer bill sponsor predicts legislature done trying to address issue

Supporters of a bill aimed at problems with Missouri’s student transfer law say Governor Jay Nixon (D) is going to veto that bill today, and one tells Missourinet, there won’t be any more.

Representative David Wood (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative David Wood (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

For the second straight year the legislature sent Governor Nixon a bill that supporters said would fix a Missouri law that makes unaccredited schools pay to send students to better performing ones. He vetoed last year’s and backers of this year’s say his staff has confirmed later today he will veto it.

Its sponsor, Versailles representative David Wood, says he’s done trying.

“I can be very certain that I will not be bringing a transfer bill up again,” Wood told Missourinet. “In the conversations that I’ve had with the House and the Senate, I do not believe there will be a transfer bill even offered next year and if it is, it’s probably not going to make it through either chamber.”

Wood says the Senate will likely continue to pursue school reforms, such as the expansion of charter and virtual schools that was seen in this year’s proposal. In the House, he says such ideas barely got enough votes for initial passage.

“That going two different directions. I don’t think they’ll ever cross,” said Wood. “So, the responsibility goes back to the superintendents, the school districts, the communities, to fix their schools.”

“We tried to fix the transfer process the best we can and give them options,” said Wood, referring to school district leaders. “They’ve campaigned to have this vetoed and not have those options, so I think my general attitude will be that they need to fix their issues then, because if the schools are accredited and they do what they’re supposed to do, there is no transfer issue.”

He doesn’t expect to make an attempt to overturn the veto he expects Nixon to issue today, on his bill.

Lawmakers: Nixon will veto student transfer bill tomorrow

State lawmakers who backed a bill to deal with Missouri’s student transfer law say Governor Jay Nixon (D) will announce tomorrow that he will veto it.

Jay Nixon (photo credit UPI)

Jay Nixon (photo credit UPI)

Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal told Missourinet one of the governor’s staff members confirmed that to her.

“I was really hopeful this year,” Chappelle-Nadal said, adding that supporters made about five changes since last year’s legislation, that he also vetoed, that were in line with the concerns he outlined to lawmakers in December.

House sponsor David Wood also says he’s hearing Nixon will announce a veto, and says part of what will allow the governor to do that is an agreement among 22 school districts in the St. Louis area to help the struggling Normandy and Riverview Gardens districts. Under that agreement, some of those districts will limit the tuition they charge Normandy and Riverview Gardens to send students to them, and those two districts will get $500,000 apiece to support reading and literacy programs.

“I believe the cards fell right for [Nixon to veto the bill],” said Wood. “There’s a lot of us that have worked for a very long time and very hard to come up with this product, and to see all that work go by the wayside is very disappointing.”

Senate handler of the bill, David Pearce, said he believes Nixon will cite to provisions in the legislation as reasons for his veto.

“I think the two reasons given will probably be, one is an expansion of virtual schools, and the other one is that there was not a hard cap on tuition for those students going into receiving districts,” said Pearce. “I felt that we addressed those. I really feel that we had a reasonable expansion of virtuals, which the governor said he would entertain, and then I do think that we provided incentives for districts to have a reduction of tuition and that would benefit everyone.”

Chappelle-Nadal says the agreement reached this week is only a temporary fix.

“I’m glad that’s happening now, but it’s simply a Band-Aid. By focusing merely on the tuition -that’s part of the equation – the other part of it, which is the true goal of working so hard for the last two-and-a-half years is to give adequate education to children who are in need.”

Chappelle-Nadal says 79.4-percent of the student population in each unaccredited building in Missouri is African-American.

“That is separate and unequal,” said Chappelle-Nadal, who accused Nixon of a, “continued lack of leadership.”

The bill would allow expansion of charter and virtual schools in St. Louis and Jackson County, let students transfer from poor-performing schools to better-performing ones in the same district, charter schools, or a virtual school, and would have the Department of Education accredit schools within districts.

The bill passed the state Senate with 23 votes; just enough to overturn a veto, but it received only 84 favorable votes in the House, well short of the 109 needed to overturn.

Wood doesn’t think enough votes can be flipped in the House to reach 109.

“We struggled to get 84 votes. I think we could probably get 90 to 95 if we worked really hard, but I do not see any way we get to 109,” said Wood.

Nixon is scheduled to announce his action on the bill tomorrow at 11:45 at Parkview High School in Springfield and at 2:30 at Ritenour High School in St. Louis.

Missouri governor: decision on student transfer bill in ‘days, not weeks’

Governor Jay Nixon (D) says his decision on a bill supporters say addresses problems with Missouri’s student transfer law will be announced soon.

Governor Jay Nixon

Governor Jay Nixon

The bill backers say is an answer to the problems caused by the transfer law would allow charter and virtual school expansion in St. Louis and Jackson Counties, let students transfer from poor-performing schools to better-performing ones in the same district, to charter schools, or to a virtual school, and would have the Department of Education accredit schools within districts.

Nixon says he’s close to saying whether he’ll endorse or reject the bill.

“We’re in the final stages of our review and you can expect a decision on [House Bill] 42 in the next couple of days, not weeks,” Nixon told reporters Wednesday. “We’re just getting to that time where we’re getting the details, we’re finishing up the review on that one, so stay tuned. That one’s going to come relatively quickly here.”

Senate sponsor David Pearce (R-Warrensburg) says he has no idea what Nixon will do.

“Somebody asked me this morning and I said, ‘Hey, give me a coin and I’ll flip it. Then I’ll have a better idea for you,'” Pearce told Missourinet.

Opponents, chiefly Democrats from St. Louis and Kansas City, say the bill won’t help struggling St. Louis schools and have urged Nixon to veto it. Their chief criticism about the bill is that it doesn’t limit the amount of tuition receiving districts can charge struggling districts for the students they take.

Proponents say the bill will help struggling schools like Normandy and Riverview Gardens, in the St. Louis region, by offering students options for a better education close to home.

If Nixon chooses to veto the bill, supporters would have to come up with more votes in the state House to overturn him. It received 84 votes on passage, but 109 would be needed to overturn a veto. In the Senate it passed with just enough votes for an override, at 23.

Earlier story: Normandy district’s state rep wants transfer veto, special session (Google Hangout)

Missouri School Board to ask for funding of district support plan

The state Department of Education plans to ask the legislature, again, to give it money aimed at preparing for the possibility that more school districts will fail.

Former state representative and senator Charlie Shields of St. Joseph accepted the gavel from Peter Herschend of Branson, as he became President of the State Board of Education.

Former state representative and senator Charlie Shields of St. Joseph accepted the gavel from Peter Herschend of Branson, as he became President of the State Board of Education.

Members of the state Board of Education say the state was not read for dealing with the Normandy School District losing accreditation – not for what would happen or how the Board would have to deal with it.

“The truth of the matter is we had no choice when we took the assignment last year, and we were grossly unprepared for the effort that was required,” said Commissioner Michael Jones of St. Louis. “Structurally unprepared, statutorily unprepared, resources unprepared, but we had no choice but to act.”

Deputy Education Commissioner Ron Lankford wants to approach being ready by asking the legislature to fully fund the Missouri School Improvement Program’s support and intervention plan.

“The weakness of the MSIP process is there was not anything that enabled intervention. It was declaration, but not intervention,” Lankford told the Board. “The goal is that we have no more Normandies.”

See the proposal presented to the Board regarding the Support and Improvement plan

Lankford spoke to the board about preparing a budget request for the legislature to consider in 2016 that would include funding for the intervention plan. The Board voted for the Education Department to proceed.

The legislature has opted not to fund the plan for the past two sessions. In the past session the Department asked for more than $3.1-million for that purpose, mostly from the general revenue fund.

Lankford says the Department will review that request and begin work on a new one for 2016.

He says a key piece of the support and intervention plan is the auditing of districts.

“You look at your leadership, you look at your curriculum that’s going on, you look at the implementation of curriculum with fidelity, you look at school climate, you look at public engagement,” Lankford explained.

He stressed the plan is not just for dealing with districts that have lost accreditation.

“Even if there are some that are not provisionally accredited – they’re fully accredited but there maybe has been a drastic decline or something like that, or they’re just over the provision,” Lankford said the plan is meant to help such districts improve.

More Missouri Lottery money for education this year, still off projection

The Missouri Lottery says its transfer to public education is $3.4-million greater this year compared to last year, but that would still be off the mark set by the governor and the legislature in the state budget.

Representative Kurt Bahr (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Kurt Bahr (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The Missouri Lottery projects a transfer of $270.7-million to public education for the fiscal year that ends at the end of this month, but that’s more than $28-million dollars short of the budget projection.

Representative Kurt Bahr (R-St. Charles) chairs the House Budget Committee for K-12 education. He said some districts could have to dip into savings to make up for the difference in how much they expected to get from the state, and what they will get.

“But, because we do have an $80-million dollar increase [for K-12 education in the Fiscal Year 16 budget], we should be able to more than make up for the hurt this year,” said Bahr.

Last year the Missouri Lottery transferred $21-million less to public education than the year before. Governor Jay Nixon (D) replaced each member of the Lottery Commission in September, and the lottery launched an effort to cut expenses in areas including advertising and promotions, equipment, and vendor fees.

Lottery Commission Chairman John Twitty said the lottery also saw gains in some in-state games and through the sales of tickets at new locations such as Kansas City International Airport, at sports stadiums, and at concerts, as well as sales of multi-state game tickets at some gas pumps ATMs.

Twitty said the Commission would like to have met the budget projection.

“I think the important thing is it’s moving back in the right direction, and we’re going to do everything we can, obviously, to hit [the budget projection for lottery revenue] for the year that starts July 1,” Twitty told Missourinet.

He said the lottery is also working with other states in looking for ways to get more people to play some of the multi-state games, such as Powerball.

“People don’t want to win $40- or $50-million anymore. They wait to play until it’s $400-million. The people who operate the lottery both in Missouri and around the country call that ‘jackpot fatigue,'” said Twitty. “We … are looking at ways to freshen those multi-state games, and particularly Powerball, so we hope that maybe through this fiscal year … we’ll begin to see some positive growth back in Powerball and maybe some bigger jackpots, and of course that happens just by chance.”

Bahr said he is considering holding an oversight hearing with the Lottery this fall on how the state spends lottery revenue.

“To one, understand what happened this year and understand what can be done for planning purposes to mitigate this type of a thing in the future,” said Bahr. “Also, should we have all the lottery money in one bucket, move all the lottery money into the foundation formula instead of having it scattered throughout, or would it be better to move all the lottery money out of the foundation formula so that we don’t have to worry about the fluctuation in the foundation formula and move it into other parts of the [budget bills for education]?”

Lottery proceeds represent about 4-percent of the annual funding to public education in Missouri.