JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Senators Maria Chappelle-Nadal and Jamilah Nasheed told reporters on Wednesday that if Gov. Jay Nixon refused to sign
the school transfer bill into law that he would be “turning his back on poor black children.”
The two senators, both black Democrats, said that Nixon was “throwing the baby out with the bath water,” for refusing to sign the bill because it has a narrowly drawn public option. The bill would allow children in unaccredited school districts to attend a private, non-sectarian school within their own district.
Nixon told reporters early this week that he “drew the line,” at spending public money on private schools. The bill requires local districts to vote every three years to authorize the private option. Bill opponents say that the legislation opens the door for voucher programs and say state funds cannot be used for private schools. Chappelle-Nadal counters that the private option will be funded by a local tax levy that must be approved on the ballot.
The presser marks a bizarre turn the education debate has taken in Missouri. For years as a House member, Chappelle-Nadal fought vocally against voucher and private option provisions, but says that she’s now abandoned the education establishment because they’ve failed to fix the problem for too long.
Nasheed, a long time supporter of education reform, has been a thorn in Nixon’s side more than once, and had publicly chided him for what she calls the mistreatment of minorities in the past. Nasheed and Chappelle-Nadal have also known to be rivals at times, making their united front on the issue even more unusual.
The bill will likely move through the Senate by the end of Wednesday where it advances to the House, where it’s fate is less certain, but where several amendments were adopted earlier this year that have remained.
Nixon all but threatened to veto the bill unless the private option was removed, a move both senators said would “kill the bill.”
“I want to know where was [Gov. Nixon] yesterday,” Chappelle-Nadal said. “Where was he last month or last year? For him to come in, in the 11th hour and suddenly threaten to veto this bill is wrong. If he vetoes this bill, it’ll be the second time he’s turned his back on poor black children.”
Collin Reischman was the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.