A familiar refrain sounded from Missouri lawmakers and school leaders Monday night worrying over efforts to fix a troublesome student transfer law.
The current bill in some situations would allow students in unaccredited school districts to transfer with public funds to nonreligious private schools — a divisive proposal.
“I have great concern because of this one controversial piece that there is the potential that no bill gets through the Legislature,” Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro said.
The commissioner was part of a panel, along with state Board of Education member John Martin, Kansas City Superintendent Steve Green and state Sens. David Pearce and Jason Holsman speaking before a full house at the Plaza branch of the Kansas City Public Library. The event was hosted by KCPT.
While the current application of the law is financially crippling two unaccredited districts in the St. Louis area, Kansas City expects it will rise out of the law’s shadow before it can have serious impact here.
Green repeated previously reported data that 23 children have requested transfers out of the unaccredited Kansas City school district for 2014-2015, compared to some 2,000 combined who asked out of Normandy and Riverview Gardens last August.
More importantly, Green said, he believes Kansas City’s continued improvement will easily put the district in position to regain provisional accreditation, and may even elevate its state report card score to a higher level.
“I expect to be before the state board and ask for full accreditation this fall,” Green said.
Pearce said the bill needed the private school component among its many provisions to get out of committee and earn broader support. But Holsman said he can’t support public funding going to private schools that can be selective in enrollment and aren’t held to the same state accountability system.