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Safe Schools Swamped

May 08, 1996
By: Joseph Morton
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Senators Wednesday (May 8) swamped the Gov. Mel Carnahan's Safe Schools Iniative with amendments as debate opened on the wide-ranging bills.

The legislation includes provisions that establish a grant system for school districts to have alternative education for disruptive children.

Under the latest version of the state budget being negotiated in the legislature these alternative school programs will receive $13 million, said Senate Appropriations Chairman Mike Lybyer, D-Huggins.

But besides alternative education, the bills touch many other bases, such as access to student discipline records and reporting of crimes committed on school property.

Most of the amendments offered Wednesday were efforts to clean up or tighten the bills. Some, however, represented real concerns about the fundamental philosophy of the governor's proposal.

Sen. Steve Ehlman, R-St. Charles, offered an amendment that provided for "alternatives to alternative education" and said he was prepared to offer another amendment that provided for "alternatives to the alternatives to alternative education."

Ehlman, who withdrew the amendment, said he was trying to make a point because he has problems with spending so much money on disruptive children.

"At what point do we stop spending money on the kids that are causing all the problems and start spending money on the kids who want to learn?" he said.

And it wasn't just the Republicans who expressed reservations about the plan.

Lybyer said he was afraid the alternative education system might end up stereotyping the children who were placed in it. He also said the grant system in the bill would tend to give more money to school districts who did not try very hard to enforce discipline.

"This whole alternative schools deal really bothers me," Lybyer said. "Those who are doing the worst job get the money."

The Senate adjourned without acting on the bills Wednesday but will take them back up for consideration today.