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Legislation filed in Missouri House would reduce unaccreditated school districts’ transfer costs

Updated: 2014-02-14T03:35:32Z

By CHRIS BLANK The Associated Press

— Unaccredited Missouri school districts could pay less to cover education costs for students who transfer to nearby schools under a House Republican’s proposal that also seeks to provide new options for transfer students while allowing receiving districts to control their enrollments.

Rep. Rick Stream said the bill he filed Thursday is a comprehensive effort to address unaccredited schools, students who attend them and a school transfer law. The 1993 law has led to significant financial problems for unaccredited districts and generated concern about surrounding schools’ ability to control the number of students.

“We need to do something for the kids, and it’s time to take some serious action,” said Stream, of Kirkwood.

Numerous bills have been filed this year, and Stream’s legislation includes components from other measures. House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, said he likes that the legislation takes a comprehensive approach and that he intends to “move this bill in a very expedient fashion.”

Missouri’s transfer law requires school districts without state accreditation to pay tuition and provide transportation for students who want to attend an accredited school within the same county or a bordering one. That has happened this school year in the Normandy and Riverview Gardens districts in St. Louis County and could start in Kansas City, which also is unaccredited.

Under Stream’s legislation, unaccredited districts would pay 70 percent of receiving districts’ per-student costs as tuition and 5 percent for a transportation fund. The policy would take effect for the current school year. Receiving districts would adopt policies for student-teacher ratios and reasonable class sizes.

State education officials also would accredit individual schools within districts that are unaccredited or provisionally accredited. Students enrolled in a struggling school within an unaccredited district first could transfer to a better school in their home system. If there was not space, they could go to another district. Families would be required to show they have lived in the district for at least one year.

The legislation also seeks to expand charter schools and allow tuition reimbursement for nonsectarian private school if there was not space for a student at a nearby accredited school.

In addition, the measure would establish a Statewide Achievement School District to oversee underperforming schools within unaccredited districts.

The State Board of Education also is considering proposals for unaccredited schools and plans to consider a recommendation next week.

Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey in a statement Thursday called for the state board to work with the Legislature to address the student transfer issue. Dempsey, R-St. Charles, said he plans to advance a bill filed earlier this week that would require the board to categorize schools as unaccredited, provisionally accredited, accredited and accredited with distinction.

He urged the board “not to be distracted by policy suggestions that simply call failure by a different name and perpetuate the problems at hand.”

The Senate Education Committee has held hearings during the past several weeks on several proposals. The committee is working to condense the ideas into a proposal that could be considered by the full chamber during the next several weeks.

Struggling schools measure is HB1868. Legislature:

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