School Transfer Bill
Legislature Takes Action to Address School Transfer Crisis (HB 42)
Legislation meant to give kids in struggling schools more options to obtain a quality education is now on its way to the governor. The House and Senate this week approved a compromise version of what has commonly been referred to as the school transfer bill.
At its core, the transfer bill is meant to clarify and improve an existing state law that allows kids to transfer from poor-performing schools to better-performing ones. The law has created a great deal of financial hardship for unaccredited districts such as Normandy, which has been forced to pick up the tab for hundreds of kids who have transferred into surrounding districts.
To help improve educational outcomes for young people in these districts, and for kids around the state, the bill includes a number of provisions that would:
- Allow the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to accredit individual schools within each district rather than the district as a whole;
- Allow students in unaccredited schools to transfer to other accredited schools in the district as a first option – a move designed to save districts from being bankrupted by paying for a mass exodus of students to other districts;
- Give students in urban areas the option to transfer to neighboring accredited districts if all slots are full in the accredited schools in their district. The bill also provides an option to transfer to an approved charter school or to enroll in a virtual education program;
- Help ease the financial burden on sending districts by giving receiving districts an incentive to accept lower tuition reimbursement for transferring students. The bill would allow districts that accept 25 or more students at the lower rate to be considered for accreditation with distinction; and
- Protect receiving districts from being overwhelmed by transferring students by allowing them to establish policies regarding classroom size and student-teacher ratio.
I encourage Governor Nixon to sign this legislation. While this may not be the perfect fix to our state’s school transfer crisis, it would be devastating to the lives of hundreds of young students in failing school districts if no action is taken. This legislation contains meaningful reforms that will allow these students to have to ability to obtain a quality education.
Municipal Court Reform
Missouri House Gives Final Approval to Municipal Court Reform Bill (SB 5)
Another bill on its way to the governor’s desk would protect Missourians from some municipalities that have exhibited predatory practices to raise revenue through excessive traffic tickets. The bill approved by the House and Senate is designed to shut down the predatory practice of “taxation by citation” by limiting the amount of revenue municipalities can generate from traffic violations.
The plan that is now just a signature from the governor away from becoming law would limit the amount of revenue municipalities can generate from traffic tickets to 20 percent. The bill further limits municipalities in St. Louis County, which has been plagued by excessive traffic violations, so that only 12.5 percent of their total revenue can be derived from traffic tickets.
The bill also creates additional protections for Missourians by ending the process of courts issuing failure to appear charges against defendants for missing court dates on minor traffic violations. Another protection would prevent courts from ordering jail time for individuals who fail to pay traffic fines. In addition, the bill includes provisions to ensure accountability from municipalities in St. Louis County by requiring they meet minimum standards – police services, balanced budget, insurance, etc. – or possibly be dissolved.