The sponsor of a school bus hardship bill says Governor Jay Nixon’s decision to veto it means an opportunity has been missed, to help some Missouri school children.
Representative Rodney Schad’s (R-Versailles) legislation would have required the Commissioner of Education to reassign students to a different district if their drive to school is longer than 17 miles, takes more than 45 minutes or has to go around natural barriers. The Senate changed the bill so that it would only have effected the St. Albans, St. Elizabeth and Gravois Mills areas.
The Governor says a system is already in place to reassign students, but Schad says it doesn’t work.
“Even though (students) apply, the powers that be find it unnecessary to approve it and allow these kids to go to a school that is much closer and allow them to engage in extracurricular activities within their communities.”
Schad says during testimony on the bill, lawmakers heard stories of students he says are at a disadvantage because of where they live.
“I just want to help a few kids across the state that are forced to ride a school bus an hour-and-a-half in the morning and then an hour-and-a-half back home and then jump in the car with mom and dad and drive 22 miles back to school for any other school function, when a closer school is 4 or 5 miles away. These holy boundaries are a problem.”
Schad says another problem with existing statute is that “educational harm” is not defined in existing statute. Nixon points to the lack of a definition in Schad’s bill of “attendance center.”
Nixon also says the legislation violates the Constitution by creating an unfunded mandate for schools whose students transfer to other districts, by making those schools pay tuition to the receiving district.
The legislation passed the House with 83 votes, well short of the number needed for a veto override. Schad says there won’t be an attempt to find the needed votes. He is term-limited out of the House at the end of his term. He doesn’t know who might carry this issue next year, but he has some possible people in mind.
“I will work on that a little later.”
Read the Governor’s veto message here.