Nixon Vetoes SB 493 - Calls On School Leaders To Support State Plan For Struggling School Districts

Senate Bill 493 fails to address challenges resulting from existing transfer law and instead would create even more problems for students and families, Governor says

ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Gov. Jay Nixon yesterday vetoed Senate Bill 493, which would have diverted public, taxpayer dollars to private schools and exacerbated the hardships faced by students in struggling districts and their families. The Governor called on school districts in the region to support the state’s plan to improve the financial stability and academic performance of troubled schools.

“Senate Bill 493 would make a difficult situation even worse by diverting public funds to private schools and imposing new financial hardships on students and families,” Gov. Nixon said. “Not only does Senate Bill 493 fail to solve the school transfer problems it was intended to address, it would create new problems and exacerbate the hardships faced by children who attend unaccredited schools. Senate Bill 493 would undermine our schools, shortchange students, and impose new financial hardships on families. It cannot become law.”

The Governor’s veto was supported by civil rights advocates and groups representing teachers, faith leaders and schools, including the Missouri State NAACP Conference of Branches, AFT St. Louis, Lutheran Family and Children’s Services of Missouri and the Cooperating School Districts of Great Kansas City.

Gov. Nixon was joined today by state Rep. Tommie Pierson (D-St. Louis), chairman of the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus.

“Citizens rightfully expect that the taxes they pay to support public education will be spent on public education,” Rep. Pierson said. “This bill would create more problems than it attempts to solve, and the Governor is right to veto it. Now, we must commit our shared efforts to ensuring a common sense path forward for our students and community.”

In his veto message, the Governor cited three reasons for his action on Senate Bill 493:

Senate Bill 493’s use of public funds to pay for private school tuition represents a “clear violation” of Article III, Section 38(a) of the Missouri Constitution and allows taxpayer dollars to be expended without appropriate accountability.

Senate Bill 493 would eliminate the current requirement that unaccredited districts pay for the transportation costs of transfers.  The Governor said such a policy “would be grossly unfair to the hundreds of families whose children transferred to accredited districts during the current year with the understanding that their future transportation costs would be paid by the unaccredited, sending district.”

Senate Bill 493 would allow receiving districts to discount the tuition paid for transfers in exchange for not having to consider those students’ performance data for accountability purposes for up to five years.

“This bill would have taken our schools backward – but that does not mean we can stand still,” Gov. Nixon said. “That’s why, given the legislature’s inability to address this issue in a responsible way, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the State Board of Education have stepped in – and with the help of teachers, parents, administrators and community leaders – charted a reasonable and workable path forward.”

The Governor also expressed his disappointment in the recent decision by the Francis Howell School District to deny students it had previously enrolled from the Normandy School District.

“To overcome the complex problems affecting struggling school districts, we all need to be part of the solution.  I believe it was wrong for the Francis Howell district to turn its back on the 350 students they accepted last year,” Gov. Nixon said. “We may be comprised of many communities, but we are one state whose promise rests within in the success of every student. To turn our back on a single child is to turn our back on our own future.”