Local lawmakers tackle problems with controversial school transfer laws

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by KMOV.com Staff | @KMOV

KMOV.com

Posted on December 16, 2013 at 7:00 PM

Updated Monday, Dec 16 at 7:20 PM

 (KMOV) – Six lawmakers on both sides work to tackle Missouri’s controversial school transfer law.

Right now, it allows students in unaccredited districts to transfer into accredited schools; all while leaving their former school to foot the bill.

But when the Missouri legislature begins their next session in January, lawmakers will have a new bill to discuss.

24 "instead of accrediting school districts, this bill calls for accrediting schools as well,” said State Senator Eric Schmitt of Kirkwood.

The plan is to give students, parents and schools more options with the centerpiece of the bill proposing accrediting individual schools within unaccredited districts.

"What we're trying to put in the statute is to give them the legal right to other accredited school opportunities that right now it may not necessarily afford them,” said State Senator John Lamping of Ladue.

In St. Louis, the Riverview Gardens and Normandy school districts lost a combined 2,500 students to accredited schools.

Paying for those students has forced Normandy to announce closure of an elementary school as well as cutting 100 jobs.

Another blow to the unaccredited districts came last week when the Missouri Supreme Court denied Kansas City Schools an escape from paying for transferring students.

St. Louis County Democrat Scott Sifton said it’s now on him and his fellow lawmakers to address the law.

"We need to do better, the law is incredibly vague on transportation... that we incurred this year,” said Sifton.

While the bill aims to improve the current law, Sifton admitted it may not provide immediate help for the two St. Louis districts.

"I’m hopeful that we will include even more ideas to help unaccredited districts boost their performance but at the end of the day every student has the right to attend an accredited school district if they so choose,” said Sifton.

The bill would also let accredited schools sponsor charter schools within unaccredited districts.

The bi-partisan plan was written over the summer and lawmakers plan to begin work on the bill as soon as the new session starts.

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