The bill would allow open enrollment in Missouri schools, allowing students to transfer out of district.

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) – The Missouri Legislature is considering a policy that would allow students to transfer to a public school outside their district.

If passed, schools would not have to accept transfers, but would not be able to do anything to stop students from leaving.

Supporters said they want to give as many Missouri students as possible the opportunity to find the education that’s right for them, and believe competition makes all schools better.

But not everyone agrees with this idea.

“If the rules aren’t fair and the playing field isn’t level, it’s not a competition. And the rules are not fair and the playing field is not level,” said St. Clair R-13 Superintendent Dr. Kyle Cruz.

Dr. Cruz calls his district a “have-not” district. He said that it is difficult to finance new buildings, even to pay teachers’ salaries, and they rely heavily on state funding.

He said he did the math, and if open enrollment were to happen, his district could lose 100 students and about $400,000 in state funding.

“We’re looking at a situation where we’re going to have to make some cuts across the district and make it even harder to compete with teacher salaries,” Cruz said.

Currently, two bills are moving through the Missouri legislature, both of which are similar and could take effect next year if passed.

“We know it’s a successful program,” said Ceci Tomkins, director of the Missouri Early Childhood Education Alliance, noting that parents can get their children involved for a variety of reasons.

“Sometimes students just experience bullying in one district or they just want something different, like say they want to learn Chinese and the school district doesn’t offer it and they just want a different program, a different environment,” Tomkins said.

In the Rockwood school district, one of the region’s largest and fastest growing, parents have their say.

“The more kids we can help, I mean, the better,” Jen Naslund said.

Naslund loves Rockwood and wants more kids in St. Louis to have the opportunities her kids have.

“Why not help the children, they are our future,” Naslund said.

Others were somewhat skeptical of the bill.

“If you’re going to have more kids, you have to worry about overcrowding,” Julie Gregory said.

The bills would allow districts to choose how many students to transfer and would not require staffing or construction mandates. In the first few years, it also limits how many students each school can bring in, initially limiting it to 5%.

However, Dr. Cruz is concerned about losing students.

“Let’s compete, but let’s do it with fair rules,” Kruse said.

St. Louis Public Schools appears to have been exempted from the bill due to the desegregation settlement.

Several St. Louis County school boards have passed resolutions opposing the bill.

The Senate bill allows students to transfer to charter schools, the House bill does not.

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