Open school enrollment can't seem to make it past committee in the legislature.
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Open school enrollment can't seem to make it past committee in the legislature.

Date: April 21, 2010
By: Sami Hall
State Capitol Bureau

Intro:  As the legislative session comes to a close May 14, open school enrollment has made little progress in Missouri's legislature.
RunTime:  3:36
OutCue:  SOC

Wrap: Maxine Johnson is just a regular St. Louis mom.

She wants basic things for her kids.

One of those things is a diploma from an accredited high school.

Actuality:  JOHNSON1.WAV
Run Time:  00:11
Description: "Last year when the board of education lost their accreditation, many parents withdrew their children out of school because many colleges won't take you with an unaccredited high school diploma."

When the St. Louis City school district lost its accreditation, Johnson took action and applied for her kids to transfer to Ladue, Brentwood, and Clayton high schools.

All three districts turned her kids down.

Actuality:  JOHNSON2.WAV
Run Time:  00:08
Description: "The bylaw says they may accept you. There's not they will accept you, you know. So neither one of our children were accepted."

Now Johnson and several other parents are suing the three districts because of it.

Stories like Johnson's are the reason some lawmakers support the push for open school enrollment.

The legislature considered two versions of the bill this session.

House Republican Shane Schoeller represents Willard, a small town near Springfield.

He sponsored the open enrollment bill in the House, and says it helps families.

Actuality:  SHOELLE3.WAV
Run Time:  00:12
Description: "Open enrollment is also a chance for, if a parent is not happy with the school district their child is in, or they want the convenience of being able to go to another school system, this just gives them another opportunity to be able to do that for their child."

Schoeller says open enrollment will make life easier for some Missouri families.

Open enrollment has run into opposition from many school districts.

Missouri School Board Association spokesman Brent Ghan says his organization has serious concerns about open enrollment.

Actuality:  GHAN.WAV
Run Time:  00:13
Description: "We're also, more generally, skeptical of the idea that open enrollment would somehow improve academic achievement. We just don't see evidence that it would do that."

Missouri National Education Association president Chris Guinthner says her organization does not support open school enrollment.

Actuality:  GUINTHER.WAV
Run Time:  00:09
Description: "No, no, we don't belive that open enrollment has demonstrated that it is an effective way to serve the best interests of students in a school district."

Guinther says the MNEA is concerned that open enrollment could undermine school districts' authority and accountability. 

Willard school board member John Lilly says he supports the plan.

But he says he's concerned about how open enrollment will affect his school district financially.


Actuality:  LILLY4.WAV
Run Time:  00:12
Description: "I would not want to accept students from outside the district and end up having to spend more money on them than we would be getting in compensation."

Schoeller says he's working to figure out how to fund his open enrollment plan.

Unlike the House version, the Senate's bill excluded the Kansas City and St. Louis City school districts.

Neither bill made it out of committee.

Dexter Republican Senator Rob Mayer sponsored the Senate version of the bill.


Actuality:  MAYE1.WAV
Run Time:  00:09
Description: "It got stuck in the Education Committee here in the Senate and so for all practical purposes it was slowed down almost to death."

Mayer says the standstill has been disappointing.

Actuality:  MAYE2.WAV
Run Time:  00:13
Description: "It's frustrating because a lot of the opposition that's been voiced against the legislation, if people would read the bill closer, they would see that there's provisions in there that would take care of the concerns that they have expressed."

While it did not happen this year, Mayer says he's hopeful that open enrollment will eventually reach Missouri schools.

Back in St. Louis, Maxine Johnson says her kids' futures are at stake.

She says the state needs to pass open school enrollment to help families.


Actuality:  JOHNSON6.WAV
Run Time:  00:04
Description: "If we keep losing our boys and girls, we're not going to have a future. We're not going to have a future to return to."

Until next session, the future of open school enrollment is unclear.

Reporting from the State Capitol, I'm Sami Hall.