Failing schools bill speeds through Mo. Senate

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Legislation allowing state education officials to intervene more quickly in failing schools has cleared the Missouri Senate with no opposition.

A bill passed Thursday by the Senate would let the state act immediately when a district loses accreditation, instead of waiting for more than two years as required by current law.

The legislation would apply to any unaccredited district.

It is prompted primarily by the Kansas City School District, which lost accreditation in January 2012, and as of now, is subject to state intervention in June 2014.

"The status quo is unacceptable.  The district is unaccredited, and so, how much time is needed?  I think some bold actions need to happen," Sen. David Pearce said.

Under the bill, the state Board of Education could prescribe conditions under which the local school board could continue to oversee an unaccredited district.

A five person board could also be appointed, with at lease three of the members residing in the KCPS district.

"They would be in charge of the district.  They could hire and fire teachers.  They could void contracts.  They would basically start a whole new district," Sen. Pearce said.

The district said that is not necessary, especially since it came within one point of qualifying for provisional accreditation last year.

"We were turning from a downward spiral, and we turned upward, which took a considerable amount of effort," Dr. Steve Green, KCPS superintendent said.

Some said that effort can only be provided locally, and not on a state level.

"There is no magic wand, there's no immediate fix to the struggles that our children have, whether they're academic or social, or emotional.  If the state takes over, they do not have a better answer," Andrea Flinders, president of Kansas City Federation of Teachers and School-Related Personnel said.

The legislation now goes to the House.

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