The Senate has given first-round approval to a bill that seeks to remedy students transferring from unaccredited schools.
Senator David Pearce (R-Warrensburg) led the process from the Education Committee to the chamber floor, where several amendments were added and several others were struck down. One more favorable vote sends the bill to the House. He says one addition he has concerns about would use state money to fund some private schools that take on students from nearby failing districts.
“That’s a departure from where we’ve been in the past,” he said. “Now, there’s a lot of restrictions on that, a lot of regulations on what is a private nonsectarian school, but it is the first time that we’re going to be using public dollars for private education K through 12.”
Pearce admits it was difficult to boil the initial nine bills into one, and then keep it streamlined enough so that it wouldn’t die under its own weight on the Senate floor, but says after pushing through two long days — and nights — of debate, he’s pleased with the end result.
Several schools in St. Louis and Kansas City are unaccredited: Normandy, Riverview Gardens, and Kansas City. Eleven districts are provisionally accredited, including some in outstate Missouri. See the full list HERE.
The bill seeks to change the current law, which says failing schools must pay to send students to a nearby school district. That mandate, which has been upheld by the Missouri Supreme Court, is bankrupting some districts. A separate bill in the legislature would provide $5 million to the Normandy School District just so it can function through the end of the school-year.
Sen. Gina Walsh of (R-Bellfountaine Neighbors) has schools in her district that are sending students and others that are receiving them. She says she’s glad a provision that would allow for mass-firing of teachers and administrators was stripped from the bill, because she’s seen first-hand how that affected the community of Riverview Gardens.
The House of Representatives was reluctant to tackle the issue at the start of the legislative session, when Senate leadership marked it as an important issue, but House Speaker Tim Jones (R-Eureka) said it wasn’t a priority. When Walsh was asked whether she thought members of the House had changed their attitude since then, she said she didn’t know, and didn’t care.
“I just know that the kids that live in my district, they deserve an education that is second to none, just like the kids that live out in Eureka,” she said. “That’s an attitude … to me that’s a statement that says those kids don’t deserve as decent as education as any other kid in this state, and that’s not fair.”
The bill would place stricter mandates on where and when students could transfer, and could result in the state picking up some of the student transfer costs. It would also grant accreditation to individual school buildings within a district so that students from a failing campus could move to a more successful one within their home district.