In a close vote, the Missouri House approves open enrollment for students

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri students and their families may soon be allowed to attend school outside of the county in which they live.

A day after members spent two hours debating the open enrollment bill, the measure narrowly escaped the House of Representatives, receiving just three votes more than it needed to pass. The major concern among members is the impact this will have on rural school districts and communities, causing them to consolidate or even close.

Rep. Brad Pollitt, R-Sedalia, said allowing students to choose the public school of their choice creates rivalry between districts, which is a good thing.

“This law puts decision-making in the districts in the hands of local taxpayers who have children in that district,” Pollitt said. “Personally, I believe this is a very pro-public school draft.”

The other hand House bill 253said during the debate that this will leave some districts behind.

“There are too many children who rely on public education and we cannot afford to open up these sinkholes across the state,” said D-Columbia Rep. David Tyson Smith. “We can open sinkholes across the state where people are devastated and it’s not worth the risk.”

Under the legislation, districts would not have to register, but the number of students who can transfer would be based on the previous school year. The wording of the bill states that districts can allow 3% of the previous year’s school’s enrollment to relocate.

“At the 3%, it’s going to be about a million dollars,” said Rep. Greg Bonacker, R-House Springs. “

By allowing students to move, funds follow the students, which could ultimately result in the district’s students leaving the country.

“The first thing that’s going to happen is downsizing, which would take us to bigger classrooms,” Bonacker said. “I could surmise that the services that would draw students into our districts are those that are most at risk of being eliminated.”

Regarding students who need special education, the bill states that receiving districts are not required to admit them. Pollitt said during Tuesday’s debate that schools could reject a child if the district doesn’t have the staff or the program.

“We can come back and revisit it every year, but why not be bold, try a small step and see if it doesn’t improve the quality of education in the state of Missouri,” said Rep. Bill Owen, R-Springfield. “Just the idea of ​​creating a little competition will make any district better.”

The “Open Enrollment in Public Schools Act” would prohibit athletes who are transferring from waiting a year before being admitted to their new school.

“I’ve heard from several teachers and superintendents and districts that don’t want this,” said Rep. Jo Doll, D-Webster Grovers. “If we don’t believe that the rural and small districts will suffer, that’s incredibly naive.”

Legislation now goes to the Senate, where similar bills have died for the past two years. In a close vote, the Missouri House approves open enrollment for students

Sarah Y. Kim

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