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Missouri Governor Pledges to Veto Student-Transfer Bill

As widely expected, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced Friday that he will veto recently approved legislation to overhaul the state's controversial law that allows students in unaccredited school districts to transfer to nearby, accredited school systems.

The governor said that the measure falls short of correcting the fundamental flaws in the current student-transfer law and would create a voucher program that he says is unconsitutional. As lawmakers worked to find a solution to the 20-year-old transfer law that has driven one school district to the verge of bankruptcy, they ladened the legislation with numerous other provisions, including one that would allow students in unaccredited districts to use public funds to pay for private school tuition.

"Every child in Missouri deserves a quality public education, and that is why I am vetoing Senate Bill 493," the governor said in a statement. "Senate Bill 493 fails to address the challenges resulting from the existing school transfer law and instead would create even more problems by allowing public funds to be used for private schools and pulling the rug out from under students who have transferred."

Gov. Nixon, a Democrat, also voiced strong objections to the measure's provision that would have allowed unaccredited districts to decline to pay for the transportation costs for students who want to transfer—a major disadvantage to students who rely on bus transportation to get to and from school.

Three school districts in Missouri are currently without accreditation—Kansas City and the Normandy and Riverview Gardens districts in the St. Louis area. Since last fall, more than 2,000 students transferred from Normandy and Riverview Gardens to better-performing districts nearby, costing both districts millions of dollars to cover transportation costs and tuition payments to the receiving districts.

The Missouri department of education, led by Commissioner Chris L. Nicastro, has proposed its own plan for intervening in low-performing schools and districts.

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