Three key education reform issues are being discussed as the 2011 session of the Missouri state legislature enters the home stretch. Receiving the most time has been the issue of expanding charter schools, and increasing their accountability. Bills allowing charter schools to open in areas outside of St. Louis and Kansas City are receiving time on the floor of both the State House and State Senate. These bills also allow the State Board of Education to close a failing charter school and include other increased accountability measures.
A bill reforming the teacher tenure system in Missouri passed out of the Senate General Laws Committee this week. The bill, similar to the one stalled in the House Education Committee, would end automatic teacher tenure after five years on the job and replace it with multi- year contracts capped at three years.
Also, bills using school choice as a solution to the Turner v. Clayton case are being heard in the House Education committee. Although remanded to lower court, the Missouri Supreme Court was clear in their opinion in the case that students in unaccredited districts have the right to transfer to an accredited district in the same or an adjoining county. The unaccredited district must pay the tuition and transportation costs for the student to attend the accredited district.
A bill setting up parameters for students to transfer to accredited school districts under the ruling was heard in the House Education Committee. The bill would set a process for students in unaccredited districts to apply for transfers. The bill also sets parameters for the receiving districts to accept students based on how many available seats they have. In hearing testimony it was estimated that the neighboring districts could accommodate 1,400 children.
Also, in the House Education Committee, a bill more focused on providing more options in the city for children was heard. This bill also sets up a mechanism for intra-district transfers, but in addition includes a voucher program and provisions allowing an accredited district to operate a charter school in an unaccredited district.
The 2011 legislative session ends on May 13.
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