Reimagining Education

Transfer Fix Passes MO Legislature, Headed to Nixon’s Desk

May 15, 2014, Jefferson City – Today both houses in the Missouri legislature passed major parental choice legislation that, for the first time in Missouri history, includes a private school option. Senate Bill 493 was designed to bring an end to the several complicated issues surrounding our state’s unaccredited schools and student transfers out of those districts.  The bill now goes to Governor Jay Nixon for signing.

Over the past year, CEAM Parent Academy-trained parents have taken action and expressed their opinions and shared their concerns with their legislators. They expressed their support for thoughtful education reform measures to solve the student transfer crisis.

The Impact on Students

Here is what the bill says:

  • Students attending an unaccredited school for at least one semester will still have the opportunity to transfer, but the new law will require students to first transfer to an accredited school within their district because all Missouri schools will now be individually accredited in addition to their school district as a whole.
  • If the accredited schools in a district are full or do not exist, students will again have the opportunity to transfer to another district in the same or adjoining county.
  • A new private, nonreligious, school-transfer option is available.  If a district and its schools lose accreditation, students may transfer to a private school and receive financial support to do so.
  • The private school option is initially subject to a vote by district residents.
  • Allowing pubic dollars to follow students to private schools will require a vote each year, but only for three consecutive years.
  • If the district is unable to regain accreditation, the private school option becomes valid and permanent.
  • Students in unaccredited districts now will receive mandated free tutoring from their school district.
  • Provides for a parent portal fund to ensure parents have easy access to information about their child’s performance and behavior.

Impact on District and Private Schools

Here is what the bill says:

  • The bill offers two new incentives to school districts receiving transfer students that are designed to avoid financial collapse among all districts.

o   First, the bill now allows receiving districts to set class size limits when considering transfer applicants.

o   Secondly, the bill rewards receiving districts that are willing to enroll students at less than 70% of their tuition rate.  (This draws on an important lesson highlighted by CEAM during the first round of transfers last year.  Receiving schools are not investing in significant new capital expenses and the incremental cost of adding students is far less than the calculated tuition rates).  Schools who exercise the option of reduced tuition will not be required to count new transfer student test scores on annual assessments tests for five years.

  • Three Regional Education Authorities will be established to manage the transfer of students from unaccredited schools to accredited ones, ensuring the transfers are done fairly and smoothly.
  • High quality charter schools will be able to expand faster in unaccredited school districts because once they have proven that they are high quality schools, they will be subject to a faster review process.
  • In the event students are able to exercise the local private school option, the private schools that accept students will have to adhere to all the academic and safety standards that public schools currently follow.

CEAM would like to recognize and thank all the parents, advocates, leaders and lawmakers working on behalf of the rights of Missouri children to access high quality educational options.  The past year has seen a lot.  At least some Missouri parents now have the ability to exercise educational options.  Receiving schools have gained some of the control over class size that they sought. Everyone involved should be congratulated on their commitment to finding a workable compromise to the student transfer crisis.

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