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Commentary: Student Transfer Legislation Is A Study In Chaos

Entrance to Normandy High School campus
Google Maps screen capture
The gates of Normandy High School, one of the institutions in the Normandy School District.

Recent national data indicate that schools are becoming resegregated and African Americans are less likely to be in integrated schools. That is why the continuation of the recent student transfer plan is so important.

The Missouri Legislature just passed a new complex, comprehensive student transfer bill, which unfortunately has so many flaws that it is likely to be vetoed by the governor. Should that be the case, the current transfer program for students from Normandy and Riverview Gardens will remain in existence until a reasonable alternative becomes law.

People may ask why students can’t stay in their home districts and be educated there? That, of course, would be the most appropriate solution. But until those unaccredited school districts improve their educational programs for all children, their students should have the option of transferring to a better school district. And the educational future of those districts will be determined in the near future by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

What the Legislature passed includes several provisions that would be hard to implement since they need a vote by the community. Transportation, which previously was paid for, would no longer be provided. Families would have to get their children to school on their own, an impossible task for many. In addition the bill says that if there is an accredited school within an unaccredited district then the student may transfer to that school. The process for setting individual school accreditation has yet to be developed by the State Department of Education. But assuming that is set up, and the accredited schools have no room, the student may transfer to another school district.

The bill also contains the probably unconstitutional provision that a student may choose a nonpublic school, and that nonsectarian private school would get public money. Finally, if a receiving school charges 90 percent of its tuition, the remained will be paid by the state. And if they charge only 70 percent, transfer students’ test scores will not be included in the overall scores of the district for five years.

I could go on and on. The sad thing is that this bill is truly a mockery of what should be a comprehensive bill that could help students who wish for a better education. The bill before the governor would make it almost impossible for the students to transfer. Meanwhile, it will take time before both Normandy and Riverview Gardens improve the quality of their education, which is the ultimate goal.

Lest we not forget, this is the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education; and we are still trying to implement an excellent educational program for all our children, be they black, white, Latino, rich or poor.