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Dialogue with Gov. Nixon on school transfer law could prove helpful to lawmakers

Dialogue with Gov. Nixon on school transfer law could prove helpful to lawmakers


JEFFERSON CITY • As lawmakers approach changing the Missouri school transfers law again this year, they are armed with a tool they didn't have before: dialogue with Gov. Jay Nixon.

Nixon, a Democrat, was criticized widely last year for his lack of communication on an attempted fix to the law, which allows children in unaccredited school districts to transfer to higher-performing ones. The Missouri Supreme Court upheld the law in 2013, leaving unaccredited districts paying the tuition and transportation costs for students who transferred to better schools last year.

Though the Legislature passed an attempted fix last year, Nixon vetoed the measure largely because of the option to transfer to a private, nonreligious school.

Now, however, the governor is participating in the conversation. Last month, the governor met with several senators, including Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, and Sens. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, and David Pearce, R-Warrensburg.

At a Senate Education Committee hearing on four transfer bills Wednesday, Pearce said the governor said he would entertain expanding both virtual and charter schools. He wants the Legislature to eliminate provisions including the private, nonreligious transfer option.

Scott Holste, Nixon's spokesman, said the governor would not comment on pending legislation.

Chappelle-Nadal, arguably Nixon's loudest critic, said Wednesday the governor did a better job communicating with the Legislature on the transfer law this year. In fact, she said his ideas to expand charter schools would provide more options to children than the private, nonreligious option. 

However, she would not say if she would approve of removing that option from the bill. 

"Everything is up for debate," she said.

The bills are Senate Bill 1, Senate Bill 22, Senate Bill 49 and Senate Bill 70.

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Alex Stuckey is a statehouse reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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