Missouri Senate committee passes student transfer bill

Written by Muleskinner Staff

By SUMMER BALLENTINE

(JEFFERSON CITY, Mo., AP) — A House bill aimed at helping students switch to better-performing schools without sending struggling districts to financial ruin under Missouri’s student transfer law passed the state Senate Education Committee on Wednesday.
The stakes are high for failing districts, which must pay tuition for students who switch to better-performing schools nearby. The Normandy system in St. Louis County is nearing its financial tipping point as the deadline for transfer applications April 1 draws closer, and the State Board of Education on Tuesday reclassified the school district as unaccredited.
Bills in both the House and Senate would require students first to transfer to better-performing schools within their district, potentially stemming the flow of tuition money elsewhere.
The passage of the House bill Wednesday marked a step forward, though, after the Senate version of the legislation stalled because of a more than $200 million price tag for implementation next fiscal year.
A more modest version from the House comes without pricey measures such as required dyslexia screening and holding students in St. Louis County schools back a grade if they score poorly in math and English. That would have cost the state about $13.5 million between state and local expenses next year.
Senators have since added on more than $20 million worth of provisions to the House bill, ramping the total cost up to about $35 million. More changes likely will occur when the bill reaches the Senate floor.
Still, the dyslexia screening was completely cut, and only underperforming St. Louis County schools would be required to hold struggling students back.
Holding students back is one of the most expensive parts of the legislation, and researchers note the full cost will start taking effect years down the road. If students are held back only once, the state is estimated to pay about $13 million in the 2020-2021 school year. That will hit a high of $23 million in 2023-2024.
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Education bills are SB 1, HB 42.
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Online:
Senate: http://www.senate.mo.gov
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Follow Summer Ballentine at https://www.twitter.com/esballentine .