Monday, February 17, 2014

Missouri's Transfer Law Is Destabilizing Districts, State Board Rushes for Solutions

The Missouri statute allowing students to transfer out of unaccredited school districts is continuing to place huge pressures on the districts and the state.  (For more background on the statute, see my earlier posts here and here).  The Normandy School District has now suffered enough losses that it is facing "financial collapse."  If it does, the state will have to reassign the 3,000 students currently enrolled in the district.  There are another 62,000 students in the state attending other unaccredited school districts.  Normandy could be just the first of many crises the state and surrounding districts will have to manage.  

Recognizing this, the state board of education is debating its options.  One proposed option, suggested by a consultant, is to hand control of these unaccredited to districts to nonprofit entities, which would presumably be something akin to a charter school operator.  Other options include creating a state-run school district comprised of the "failing districts," allowing the local school boards to continue operating their "failing districts," or pushing the state to amend the transfer statute.  The nonprofit and state-run options have already drawn strong objections from some board members.  I would suspect that the privitization lobby, however, will soon enough pressure lawmakers in the opposite direction.  What makes Missouri's situation so interesting and important is that the concept of this transfer provision across district lines offers some good possibilities, most importantly integration and poverty deconcentration.  But when the law operates too harshly, its primary effect is to destabilize the entire education system of the state, which is not good for anyone.  That seems to be the case now.  Hopefully, the legislature or board can come up with a reasonable response to these self-inflicted wound.

For more local reporting on the story, see here.

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