For Immediate Release: For more information contact:
May 8, 2014 Rep. Tommie Pierson at (573) 751-6845
Rep. Clem Smith at (573) 751-4468
Reps of unaccredited districts express concerns with education bill
Pierson and Smith says measure must protect interests of affected students and schools
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Two lawmakers who represent the unaccredited North St. Louis County school districts most affected by the current student transfer controversy say the final version of legislation addressing the issue must ensure the long-term viability of those districts, and others that might become unaccredited in the future, and protect the interests of their students.
Under the transfer law, which was first implemented for the current school year, students in unaccredited districts may transfer to nearby accredited districts, with their home district required to pay tuition and transportation costs.
The Senate and House of Representatives have each passed a version of legislation to revise the law, but in radically different forms. Negotiators are working to craft a compromise version of the measure, Senate Bill 493, before the legislative session ends on May 16.
At present, the only two unaccredited school districts subject to the transfer law are Normandy and Riverview Gardens, although the Kansas City School District could be affected next year. State Rep. Tommie Pierson, D-St. Louis, represents Riverview Gardens; state Rep. Clem Smith, D-Velda Village Hills, represents the bulk of the Normandy School District.
Pierson and Smith support a provision of the House version that caps tuition “receiving” districts may charge at 70 percent of the “home” district’s tuition rate. Both districts were financially stable before the transfer law was implemented, but tuition costs have caused severe financial strain, especially for Normandy.
“The intent of the transfer law was to give students an alternative, not drive unaccredited districts into bankruptcy,” Pierson said. “Capping tuition at a reasonable and predictable rate will help Riverview Gardens and Normandy to maintain the resources needed to serve their remaining students.”
During House debate on SB 493, Smith successfully added an amendment that would prohibit the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education from apportioning the Normandy district among neighboring districts. Normandy officials instead would be given time to implement their local recovery plan.
“Busting up the Normandy district would create more problems than it would solve,” Smith said. “Local officials have developed a viable recovery plan and deserve a chance to implement it. The final version of the transfer bill must give them that chance.”
Both Pierson and Smith oppose various proposals to force unaccredited districts to pay tuition for their students to attend private schools.
“Taxes imposed for public education should be spent on public education,” Pierson said. “Taxpayers demand it.”