Bill could allow Missouri students to enroll in public schools outside their district

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A new bill could allow Missouri students to enroll in public schools outside of the district where they live.

Missouri State Rep. Brad Pollitt (R-Sedalia) recently introduced HB 1989, which calls to create a public school open enrollment program.

The program would allow students, starting in kindergarten, to attend a public school in a nonresident district with support from their parents or guardians after an application process.

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Missouri public school districts have the power to determine their involvement in the program, how many transfers the district would be willing to accept, and whether a nonresident’s application to join their district is approved.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education would develop procedures for an open enrollment transfer policy that all public school districts would have to adopt, regardless of their involvement in the program.

The bill would also allow districts to limit transfer students to a rate of 1-3% of the previous school year’s enrollment based on certain factors. For districts participating, by Dec. 1 each year, officials would be required to announce the number of transfer students the district would be willing to receive for the following school year.

The bill cites factors such as improved instruction, increased parental involvement, access to more programs and classes and the “opportunity to align parental curriculum options to personal beliefs” as motives behind the proposed program.

Pollitt introduced a similar bill last year, which advanced out of the Missouri House, but did not clear the Senate before the end of the legislative session.

Supporters contend such change would be important for education reform. Opponents are concerned about the effect the program could have on rural school districts and communities, worried it could cause many to consolidate or close.

HB 1989 has been assigned to a House committee and is currently scheduled for a hearing on Jan. 17. Lawmakers completed a public hearing over it Wednesday.


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