By Ben Velderman
ST. LOUIS – In a doozy of a legal ruling, a St. Louis County Circuit Court judge ruled that a Missouri law that (theoretically) allowed students to leave an unaccredited school district for a better one – and take their state tax dollars with them – was “unconstitutional and unenforceable,” reports StLToday.com.
The St. Louis school district is one of three Missouri districts that are currently unaccredited by the state, which is a nice way of saying the schools don’t meet basic standards.
The Circuit Court judge sided with the education establishment, which argued the transfer law would cost unaccredited districts so many students – and so much money – that they wouldn’t be able to adequately serve the students who remained behind. They also argued that the “receiving” districts could not feasibly absorb the new students.
But State Sen. Jane Cunningham says the overruled law would have given ample resources to the “receiving” districts to cover the additional costs.
“So even if (the receiving schools) have to buy things, build on, it covers all their costs,” Cunningham told StLToday.com.
If Sen. Cunningham is correct, then it appears that officials from the “good” and “bad” districts might be conspiring to protect the status quo – including untold numbers of unionized teaching and administrative jobs. Missouri taxpayers should demand a better explanation.
Lawmakers could pass legislation that places clear limits on the number of students “receiving” schools must take in, thus removing a central complaint against the transfer law.
But “such a remedy has been held hostage in other controversial legislation,” reports StLToday.com. “The latest court action and probable appeal could weaken the leverage of school choice advocates in the Missouri Legislature.”
That means the judge’s ruling is a double loss for the 72,000 students who would have qualified for a transfer, but now have little hope of escaping their subpar schools.
And concerned parents – those who can’t afford private school tuition – are left to worry about the negative, lifelong effects that attending a failing school might have on their children’s lives.