Missouri NEA urges Governor Nixon to veto Student Transfer Bill (final version SB 493)

Content of letter from Missouri NEa to Governor below

Governor Nixon:


On behalf of Missouri NEA, I am writing to ask that you please veto Senate Bill 493 as Truly Agreed To by the Missouri General Assembly on May 15, 2014. The Association opposes the final version of SB 493.  The bill does little to improve the educational outcomes in struggling school districts and communities.


MNEA believes state accountability systems and intervention in districts should focus on supporting and bringing the community together to better support the schools, rather than hindering those efforts, taking away local control and transferring students to less accountable private schools.


The legislature has missed the opportunity to directly address the adverse financial impact caused by the state’s accreditation policy in conjunction with the student transfer law.  The Association supported clear, meaningful revision to the tuition rate calculation to reduce the disproportionate impact on sending districts.  SB 493 merely offers to hide student test scores for five years if a district chooses to arbitrarily reduce its tuition rate to 70% or less.


SB 493 leaves expensive transfer options for some students, but imposes conditions that will leave many of the most vulnerable students subject to a double standard.  Students must attend in district schools for at least one semester before transferring and will lose their transfer option if they move out of the school attendance zone, withdraw from a transfer or are suspended two or more times.  The bill also removes the entire obligation for a sending district to provide transportation, effectively removing the transfer option for the most vulnerable students who lack family capacity to provide transportation.


SB 493 also undermines local efforts to rally community resources in support of public schools.  When a district becomes unaccredited, the bill requires a contentious local vote on whether to allow public funds to pay for students to attend private schools.  This harmful proposal undermines the more supportive and unifying state intervention intended with the passage of SB 125 during the 2013 session.


The bill weakens the regulation of charter schools by shifting the process for DESE approval to a presumptive approval unless the application is denied within a strict timeline.  The bill also provides less scrutiny for new charters from an entity with a high-scoring school. 


Similar to SB 509, the bill also contains a technical error that may be of considerable impact.  As a condition of receiving state aid, an unaccredited district must use funds from the operating levy for school purposes to pay tuition for transferring students who attend a nonsectarian private school in the district, even if such payments are not required or not even permissible under the bill.


In addition, the private school tuition must be paid using school operating funds.  MNEA believes this provision is legally suspect because it represents the use of public funds for funding private school tuition.  Even if our state’s Constitution allows district funds to pay for private school tuition, no provision is made to require separate accounting of local tax funds from state funds and other funds deposited in the school’s operating accounts pursuant to existing law.


The bill also contains special interest language to require certain pupil reassignment options, apparently for one of the same areas targeted by HB 1789 from 2012, a bill you vetoed two years ago. 


The bill also arbitrarily imposes mandated retention, only in certain districts, for 5th and 8th grade students who happen not to score at least proficient on both their English language arts and math assessments that year.  This provision targets only “underperforming” districts in St. Louis County and would not apply to similarly performing students in other parts of the state.


For these many reasons, I urge you, on behalf of the Association, to veto SB 493 and return it to the General Assembly with your objections, as authorized under the Missouri Constitution.  I thank you for the opportunity to offer our concerns on this matter and for your continuing service and efforts in support of children and public education.

Charles E. Smith

MNEA President

Media Coverage 

Gov. Jay Nixon will use his veto pen on a bill allowing students to transfer to private, nonreligious schools because he says it doesn’t address problems in the current school transfer law. “Every child in Missouri deserves a quality public education, and that is why I am vetoing (the bill),” Nixon said Friday. “(The bill) fails to address the challenges resulting from the existing school transfer law and instead, would create even more problems by allowing public funds to be used for private schools and pulling the rug out from under students who have transferred.”

Posted Date: 5/28/2014
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