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Our Opinion: Veto the student transfer law

News Tribune editorial June 13, 2015 at 12:30 p.m. | Updated June 13, 2015 at 12:30 p.m.

A "school transfer law" awaiting action by the governor could influence the future of public education in Missouri.

We encourage Gov. Jay Nixon to veto the proposal. As written, we fear the law will shift money from public school districts to charter and virtual schools.

Although charter and virtual schools may play a viable role in the future, any shift of state resources to untested alternatives is premature and potentially detrimental to public education.

Let's focus on the school transfer bill, approved by lawmakers in the recent session, to address perceived flaws in a 1993 law.

The law allows students in unaccredited school districts to transfer to schools in adjacent, accredited districts, with the costs paid by the unaccredited district.

A focal point has been the St. Louis-area Normandy School District, which has lost accreditation from the State Board of Education. Students fleeing Normandy schools under the existing transfer provisions have left the district facing insolvency.

The proposed fix is not without merit. A practical provision would require students to transfer first to a better-performing school within the district, keeping state dollars within the district, before transferring outside the district.

But the law also contains provisions to expand the roles of both charter and virtual schools.

Much of the opposition, as expected, comes from public education associations, just as much of the support comes from proponents of education alternatives.

Public educators have a vested interest in the outcome, but they make an important point - the education of students must remain the top priority and goal of any legislation.

Roger Kurtz, executive director of the Missouri Association of School Administrators, criticized the bill as "more about the adults than the kids."

We agree.

Public education continually is changing, but the case can be made that it now faces broader, more dramatic flux, in part because of changes in technology. But virtual and charter options are not the only parts of the equation. Vouchers, year-round schools, busy households and cultural changes all are part of the mix.

Change is inevitable for public education, but it must be well thought out, properly managed and always responsive to student learning.

The student transfer law doesn't meet that criteria. We encourage the governor to veto it.

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