Superintendent seeks community support for bill clarifying court decision

Mehlville Superintendent Terry Noble is urging the community to express its support for legislation that would clarify a Missouri Supreme Court ruling concerning students in unaccredited school districts.

In an email Monday, Noble asked district patrons to contact their state legislators and urge them to support House Bill 763, which would give school districts the authority to develop criteria for enrolling non-resident students from unaccredited districts.

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Rick Stream, R-Kirkwood, is stalled in the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee with the current legislative session scheduled to conclude Friday, May 13.

The state high court ruled last year in Turner vs. School District of Clayton that students residing in unaccredited school districts are entitled to attend an accredited school in the same or adjoining county.

If the court’s decision is allowed to stand without further clarification from the Legislature, Noble wrote:

Mehlville and other districts “would be required to admit an unlimited number of new students possible increasing class sizes beyond the Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP) standards.

“Students currently attending private or parochial schools located in unaccredited districts could also attend our schools at the state’s expense.

“Millions of dollars in additional funding would be required, placing a tremendous burden on Missouri’s already strained budget.”

While Mehlville’s mission is to provide a high-quality education for all students, including those who transfer in, “a sudden influx of students in our schools without the resources or necessary controls to provide a quality education does not serve any student well, regardless of their home district,” the superintendent wrote.

Noble noted that the district has been working toward a solution with legislators and such education groups as Cooperating School Districts of St. Louis.

Some legislators, however, are holding Stream’s bill “hostage” by refusing to support it “unless they can tack on their own special interests,” Noble wrote.

“This is not right,” he stated. “The ‘Turner Fix’ is too important for our children to be used as a negotiating tool. I feel Rep. Stream’s proposed legislation is the simple solution.”