On Thursday, Feb. 20, the Senate Education Committee approved a measure that would provide public school funding for students from unaccredited schools to attend non-religious private schools.
The measure also would allow the governing board of an unaccredited or provisionally accredited district to terminate the contracts of school staff, including tenured teachers.
Under current law, a student attending a school in an unaccredited district has the right to transfer to a nearby accredited public school. The unaccredited district is required to pay the tuition costs for the transfer.
Under the Senate Education Committee's plan, a district without an accredited school would be required to pay at least some of the tuition costs for a student who chose to attend a private, non-religious school. The district would use local money generated by property taxes to fund part of the tuition of the new private school.
The proposal was made by Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis County, who said the amendment was made to notify parents of the options they have while considering transferring their child to another school.
"A student has the ability to transfer to an accredited building within the district," Chappelle-Nadal said. "After the point where a student is not able, because of class size or other restraints, to transfer to another accredited school within the district, that opens everything up."
According to Chappelle-Nadal, kids from unaccredited schools have the option of transferring to a charter school, a school in a nearby or adjoining county or to a private school. The senator also confirmed that children already enrolled in the private option would not receive any of the monetary benefits that a transfer student from an unaccredited school would receive.
In addition, the substitute grants the unaccredited or provisionally accredit school district power to fire school staff including tenured teachers and administrators. Under the bill, the school district governing school board would reserve the right to "terminate the employment of any school personnel who may have contributed to the school's or district's lack of accreditation" or simply "terminate the employment of the majority of school personnel, including the school principal."
"I'm married to a teacher, my father was a teacher; I have nothing but respect for teachers," said committee chairman Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg. "However, all teachers and all administrators need to be accountable and when a school is not performing, we need to take a look at all aspects of that school. Of course, teaching is one of them."
Pearce said the bill could come up for full Senate debate as early as Tuesday, Feb. 25.