We are closing in on the last two weeks of session and from this time forward we anticipate putting in long hours as we debate the remaining bills that have been moving this session.
Often, bills will be loaded down with other bills and amendments to become what is referred to as omnibus bills. This causes legislators to have to either vote for the good components of the bill or vote NO based on the grounds of not favoring certain portions of the omnibus bill. A common phrase that resonates this time of year is …”do you throw the baby out with the bathwater?”
Having so many citizens voice their support or opposition to certain bills certainly makes those last minute decisions much more assured. Thank you for keeping up with state issues and letting your voice be heard.
The House of Representatives on April 30 voted 91-64 in favor of legislation that seeks to ease the impact of a controversial 1993 law that allows students in unaccredited public school districts to transfer to nearby accredited districts. However, the bill, SB 493, sparked bipartisan opposition due to provisions that potentially could allow students to transfer to private schools at public expense.
The bill returns to the Senate, which approved a different version of the measure in February. The House and Senate must work out their differences in legislation before it can be granted final approval.
Although the transfer law has been on books for decades, it only came into play a few years ago when some districts lost state accreditation. The law remained tied up in litigation for several years until the Missouri Supreme Court upheld it last summer. The law was first implemented at the start of the current school year for the unaccredited Normandy and Riverview Gardens districts in north St. Louis County. The Kansas City School District, which also is unaccredited, could be impacted by the transfer law in the upcoming school year.
Because it requires unaccredited districts to pay tuition and transportation costs for their students to attend other schools, the law has placed significant financial strain on those districts, especially Normandy, which had been financially stable but now is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. The law also has created uncertainty for accredited districts that have accepted transfer students since it provides little guidance on various issues related to its implementation.
The House version of SB 493 would set tuition at 70 percent of the sending district’s tuition rate. Under the existing law, receiving districts set tuition at whatever rate they choose. The bill also would allow receiving districts to set maximum class sizes and student-teacher ratios and allow them to refuse to accept transfer students if doing so would violate those standards.
Under the Senate version of the bill, students in unaccredited districts also would have the option to transfer to non-religious private schools at local taxpayer expense. The House version retains that option but subjects it to a number of restrictions, including requiring the approval of district voters before public money could be used for private school tuition. Private schools that choose to accept transfer students would have to agree to follow state performance and safety requirements. The private school option would apply only to transfer students from St. Louis city, St. Louis County and Jackson County.
Contact information for Rep. Black is State Capitol Room 105-F, 201 W. Capitol Ave., Jefferson City, Mo. 65101-6806. By phone at 573-751-2317; toll free at 866-631-8781 or by email at Linda.Black@house.mo.gov
This report is filed at the end of each week during the legislative session. This report was filed at the close of business last week.