Wanting to voice concerns over possible "open enrollment" legislative action, South Callaway School District board members hope to soon hold a meeting between state legislators and educators, superintendents and board members from across Callaway County.
During Wednesday night's school board meeting, the topic of open enrollment was discussed at length when Mary Lynn Battles, superintendent, addressed legislative and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education information as part of the meeting's new business. "Open enrollment," allowing public school students who live in one district to enroll in another district, is an issue that has been defeated in the state legislature in past years.
"The fear is that this year it could very well pass," Battles said.
Last legislative session, Sen. Rob Mayer, R-District 25, sponsored a bill, SB 603, that would allow for open enrollment for all districts in the state except the Kansas City and St. Louis districts. Similar amendments were proposed last session by some members of the House. Battles said she is concerned that the issue is not dead and an open enrollment bill could be passed this coming session.
"When you think of what's best for the school districts across the state, this is not what's best," Battles said.
She said open enrollment could lead to several problems, especially when it comes to funding. If a student who lives in one district decides to attend school in a different district, "Where does that local dollar go?" she asked.
With districts all over the state already suffering from state funding losses and having to make budget cuts accordingly, Battles said she sees open enrollment as another way districts may lose money.
"There's all types of questions that haven't been answered," Battles said.
Answering questions is what Battles said she hopes legislators will be able to do in the meeting South Callaway is trying to schedule.
Gary Jungermann, South Callaway school board member, said he is already working to contact area legislators for an open discussion. He said the district's mission is to "let them know how the school boards feel on the issue."
Jungermann said he doesn't see open enrollment as a good thing, because it will put a lot of "burden and strain" on the district with students able to "go anywhere they want to go."
"I'm sure it has pros," he said, "but the cons definitely outnumber the pros, in my opinion."
Certain groups and politicians are behind an open enrollment bill, stating it will give parents and students another option if they are unhappy with their current schools.
The Children's Education Council of Missouri released a statement earlier this year stating that it "... hopes that the debate on this important issue continues ... Children trapped in failing schools deserve the opportunity to look for alternatives in order to receive an appropriate education."
In a February 2010 interview with KFVS News in Jefferson City, Sen. Mayer stated of SB 603, "The bill will create some competition, and we think that's healthy."
Battles said open enrollment is "being sold as an attractive package," but "when you step back and look at the whole picture, it could be extraordinarily problematic."
"There's a lot of concerns, legitimate concerns," she said.