Students from Santa Fe Elementary School visited the capitol this week. (Contributed photo)
Visitors this week included students from Santa Fe Elementary School and Northwest Elementary School. Thank you for visiting Jefferson City.
Legislature Passes SB 493, The Transfer Bill
This week the General Assembly passed SB 493, otherwise known as the Transfer Bill. Senator Pearce worked hard on this bill, and brought it to fruition. There will be a lot of discussion on the problems with SB 493 and our differences, and it is not perfect. However, I wanted to point out several of the positive portions of this bill.
Just a quick review: the current situation began with a 1993 law that allows students from unaccredited school districts to transfer to adjacent, accredited schools. One of the most important issues addressed by SB 493 is the provision changing the accreditation to the school building along with the school district. This allows the transfer students to transfer to other school buildings within their home district. This will greatly reduce the number of students that will qualify for the transfer and it will require the students stay in accredited buildings inside the district first.
While the changes concerning tuition are not perfect, they will prevent bankruptcy in the sending districts. The receiving districts have options and rewards as incentive to receive the students from the failing districts. If we had failed to pass this bill, we would be funding the sending schools in the supplemental budget to cover the differences in tuition next year, just as we did with Normandy School District this year. This is the overwhelming reason why I voted for this bill.
If we allowed the current transfer situation to continue, the General Assembly would reconvene in early January with another funding crisis, and this would most likely be larger than this year's crisis. The increasing cost of not dealing with the situation would threaten funding to all school districts, and this at a time when we are trying to fully fund the Foundation Formula. The option of doing nothing holds too great a risk.
In other provisions, the transfer board is created to bring some control to the transfer process. This requires that the buildings in the failing district that are accredited will be filled first. The receiving schools have control of the number of seats that they make available to the failing districts. They are allowed to reserve seats for new students in a growing district so that the transfer can't create a hardship on the local students by not having space or resources. The receiving district cannot be required to add classrooms or teachers to accommodate the transfer students: any such additions are optional for the receiving school.
Teams will be going into the districts that are unaccredited or provisionally accredited. They will be analyzing every part of that school and developing a report that details their strengths and weaknesses. A school improvement plan will be developed from that report. This is addressing issues before they become critical and improves the education of those students before it is too late.
There are public, charter, and private school options in this bill and they are accredited in three different ways. The private option has to meet all of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education requirements as well as the testing requirements. Those charter schools that are performing at a high level will be allowed to expand into the failing districts.
There are many sections of the bill that encourage parent involvement by notifications, home visits, and community meetings. We realized that some parents do not want home visits so the option of community meetings was created.
The bill addresses students that are in kindergarten through 2nd grade and behind in their reading proficiency. The school is required to provide a reading plan for all students that are below grade level in the underperforming districts. Programs for online tutoring, parent portals and additional learning are also outlined in the bill. Keeping students engaged and the parents informed will be critical.
Finally there is a committee formed to evaluate the transfer process to make sure that the transfer program is having the results we desire. This is looking at the results in both the sending and receiving districts as well as all of the programs to make sure that what we have done is truly helping the students that need it most.
There are several other issues in this bill; however, these are some of the most important. We will probably revisit this issue next session, but I believe we have at least made a step in the right direction. The longest journey begins with the first step!
It is an honor to serve the 51st District in the Missouri House of Representatives. Each week I will issue a capitol report to keep you informed of activities in Jefferson City and Missouri. Any concerns or issues you might have are of great interest to me. I look forward to your input and thoughts, so please feel free to contact me at any time if you have questions, concerns, or ideas to improve our state government and the quality of life for all Missourians. My telephone number is 573-751-2204 or you may contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for working with me to make Missouri a great place to live.