Nine bills that either directly addressed or were related to school transfers and accreditation were combined into one bill and passed Thursday by the Missouri Senate's Education Committee.
Committee members added the contents of Senate Bills 485, 495, 516, 534, 545, 595, 616, and 624 onto Senate Bill 493, which is sponsored by committee chairman and State Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg. The wide ranging measure would require the State Board of Education to adopt a classification system that would accredit individual school buildings within a district, instead of the district as a whole. Also, student transfers would be coordinated by three regional authorities – one for St. Louis city and County, one for Kansas City and Jackson County, and one for the rest of the state. Another provision would require the State Board's classification system to accredit charter schools.
"What we're trying to do is reduce the number of transfer students to begin with," Pearce said. "Then and only then, if we have to do it, then let's restrict it, but then also give (students) some choices to pursue a good education."
Those choices also include an amendment by State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, that would allow students from unaccredited schools to transfer to private, nonsectarian schools. That prompted the lone "no" vote from fellow Democrat Jason Holsman of Kansas City, who objects to public dollars going to private schools.
"Private schools have admission standards, they don't take all kids," Holsman said. "There's no requirement that private schools take the kids from the public areas, and by deferring public money to private schools without having access for all, we're diminishing the resources that we have to educate all."
Holsman says he supports the bill as a whole, but could not vote for it after Chappelle-Nadal's amendment was added on.
Pearce told reporters Thursday he thinks the State Board of Education, the Missouri House, and even Gov. Jay Nixon are looking to the Missouri Senate for leadership and direction on the student transfer issue.
"What we passed out of committee is just a start," Pearce said, "and more than likely the end bill or bills will not look like this at all by the time (that) hopefully the governor signs it."
Pearce says he hopes a final compromise can be reached before the legislative spring break next month. The bill is similar to a proposal made earlier this week by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter: @MarshallGReport