JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — In a lengthy committee debate, Sen. David Pearce, R-Caldwell County, pitched his broad education reform package aimed at changing the way the state accredits public schools and handles transfer students from districts that have lost accreditation.
Pearce’s bill comes as the state struggles with what to do with thousands of students currently occupying unaccredited school districts and a larger, looming debate on teacher tenure and charter schools.
“I don’t think there is any greater issue than the transfer issue right now,” Pearce said during testimony. “It affects the future of the state in so many ways.”
Pearce said he anticipated many more hearings on the subject, with at least a dozen bills filed in the senate alone dealing with education issues and transfers. Pearce also added that he believed any bill would require a good deal of compromise.
“I want to start getting these hearings and putting these ideas before our committee so we can start to figure out what we think will work, what won’t, and what we can agree on so begin fixing this problem,” Pearce said.
Pearce’s bill includes a number of provisions, including requirements to prove residency in an unaccredited district before being transferred out at district expense, that school districts receive building-by-building accreditation instead of district wide, and the establishment of a statewide achievement district for students in long-unaccredited district.
Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis, effectively lead the hearing with her lengthy questions of Pearce and his witnesses. Chappelle-Nadal’s primary concerns were both in the establishment of an achievement district, which she said could segregate poor black students from their affluent white counterparts, and in the residency requirements which she says won’t work in poor districts with a high percentage of mobile families.
The bill will almost certainly require several more hearings before anything is voted on, and Pearce and Chappelle-Nadal both solidified their positions as leading voices on education, despite sometimes being in opposition.