LEGISLATIVE POLICY BRIEF: Education

Posted by Dave Berry

Subject: Student Transfers

Gate Way Group Contact: Deanna Hemphill 

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Issue Summary: A number of bills are being considered once again in the Missouri legislature dealing with the rights of students attending underperforming public school districts.  The law, as contained in Chapter 167.131 of the Revised Missouri Statutes (RSMo), came to the forefront several years ago after the families of six students attending the Clayton School District, while living within the boundaries of the St. Louis Public School District that was classified as unaccredited by the State Board of Education, filed suit to require the Clayton School District to bill St. Louis Public School District for the tuition they had been paying to send their children to attend Clayton.  Chapter 167.131 RSMo, the basis of the suit, provides that any student living in an unaccredited district has a right to transfer to an accredited district located in the same or an adjacent county at the expense of the unaccredited district.  This would include tuition and transportation.

The case moved through the court system ultimately arriving at the Supreme Court which made a ruling in 2013 having the effect of upholding the law.  Since then, parents of about 2,200 students living in the Normandy and Riverview Gardens school districts, both unaccredited (St. Louis Public School District was no longer classified as unaccredited at the time of this ruling), have chosen to act on the upper court’s decision and enroll their children in nearby accredited school districts such as Francis Howell, Kirkwood, Mehlville and Ladue as the law provides.

The situation has brought about concerns from both sides of the issue.  Many parents living and paying property tax in the receiving districts are concerned about increased class sizes and their tax dollars benefitting students living outside their district while officials from Normandy and Riverview Gardens fear bankruptcy as state funding is redirected to the receiving districts.  Parents in the Normandy and Riverview Gardens districts on the other hand maintain their children have a right to receive a quality education as determined by the upper court even if it means sending them to another school.

One form or another of the various legislation being considered may or may not cross the finish line this year.  Proponents of student choice will make every effort to preserve what the upper court upheld this year while opponents push to water down the law at a minimum.  Ideas such as accrediting individual schools within districts, creating achievement districts, expanding charter sponsorship, expanding virtual education opportunities, extending the school day and/or year, and prohibiting social promotion are just a handful of provisions on the table to consider.

Key legislation filed thus far:

Senate Bill 485, filed by Senator Scott Rupp (R-Wentzville)
Senate Bill 495, filed by Senator Eric Schmitt (R-Kirkwood)
Senate Bill 534, filed by Senator Scott Sifton (D-St. Louis)
Senate Bill 545, filed by Senator John Lamping (R-St. Louis)
Senate Bill 595, filed by Senator Gina Walsh (D-St. Louis)
Senate Bill 493, filed by Senator David Pearce (R-Warrensburg)
Senate Bill 516, filed by Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal (D-St. Louis)
Senate Bill 616, filed by Senator Jamilah Nasheed (D-St. Louis)
Senate Bill 624, filed by Senator Paul LeVota (D-Kansas City)
House Bill 1227, filed by Representative Dave Hinson (R-St. Clair)
House Bill 1246, filed by Representative Dave Hinson (R-St. Clair)
House Bill 1294, filed by Representative Margo McNeil (D-Florissant)
House Bill 1481, filed by Representative Mark Parkinson (R-St. Charles)
House Bill 1420, filed by Representative Mark Parkinson (R-St. Charles)

News & Media

Mo. Senate committee mulls school transfer bill
Education bill dealing with transfers, accreditation, has lengthy hearing
Normandy School District bankrupt April 1 without aid from state
Education officials want state money for Normandy school district
Francis Howell parents seek answers about Normandy transfer students
Mehlville greets Riverview Gardens transfer students