The state legislature has sent Governor Jay Nixon (D) a bill backers say will help schools struggling financially because of Missouri’s student transfer law. Opponents say it’s a bill hijacked by Republicans to expand charter and virtual schools and they’re calling on Nixon to veto it.
The transfer law lets students in poor performing schools transfer to better-performing ones, with the sending district having to pay tuition for those students. That law has left some school districts, such as Normandy in the St. Louis region, close to insolvency.
The bill would have accreditation decided by individual schools within districts rather than by district, so that students in failing schools could go to a better performing building rather than another district.
It would also expand access to charter and virtual schools, which House sponsor David Wood (R-Versailles) and other backers say gives students another option closer to home.
“I believe every part of this will work. It may not be the best solution. It may not be the easiest solution, but we have a pathway for this to work,” said Wood.
Representative Genise Montecillo (D-St. Louis) said the bill was not about addressing the issues with the transfer bill, but was only a charter school expansion proposal.
The bill also proposes having a private company run an expanded virtual school program; a provision Montecillo equated to the “private option” that Nixon cited as his reason for vetoing a transfer bill last year, that would have allowed tax dollars to go to private schools in some circumstances.
“This does have a private option,” Montecillo told fellow House members. “You may like or dislike a private option. We have disagreements about that as well. Okay, I’m fine with that, but let’s don’t pretend this does not and this is not a private option.”
Shortly after the House passed the bill, its Democratic caucus issued a statement from Representative Clem Smith (D-Velda Village Hills) saying he hopes the bill is vetoed by Nixon since it didn’t get enough votes in his chamber to overturn a veto. In talking to Smith on the floor, Representative Karla May (D-St. Louis City) told Smith the bill won’t help Normandy.
“To say that it’s to assist a school district that we’ve already failed is appalling to me,” said May.
Representative Tommie Pierson (D-St. Louis), who last year was very vocal in calling on Nixon to veto that transfer bill, disagrees with May and Smith.
“I agree with most people who have spoken on this bill that it is not perfect,” Pierson told Wood, “But to do nothing would be worse than voting for this bill.”
With the bill having been passed by the legislature only last night, Nixon has not said what he would do with it.
His spokesman Scott Holste tells Missourinet the bill, “will undergo a fair and comprehensive review after it reaches the Governor’s desk.”