Missouri – On Wednesday, the Missouri House made a move to let students attend public schools outside their own district by passing a new bill. The vote was pretty tight at 86-73, which is unusual because the House is mainly controlled by Republicans. This was the first piece of legislation they got through this session.
Rep. Brad Pollitt urges parents to trust their local school districts
Rep. Brad Pollitt, a Republican from Sedalia who pushed for the bill, encouraged everyone to trust their local school districts. He highlighted that this change would let parents decide where their kids should go to school, without pulling them out of the public school system.
This new rule means that parents can choose to send their kids to any public school, not just the one in their area. Kids can switch schools once a year, but they can also go back to their original school if they want to.
School districts can decide if they want to take in students from other areas. They can also set limits on how many out-of-district students they’re open to accepting.
However, schools can’t stop their students from choosing to go to a different district. The bill does say schools can limit how many students leave, capping it at 3% of the school’s enrollment from the year before.
Rep. Maggie Nurrenbern, a Democrat from Kansas City, expressed concerns about how this bill might impact smaller, rural schools.
“Open enrollment will leave small school rural districts fighting for their lives against larger rural districts that have more resources and it will lead to district consolidation,” Nurrenbern said.
Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to create new policy
The bill requires the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, or another agency, to create a standard policy for schools to follow regarding letting students attend schools outside their home district. All school districts have to adopt this guideline, even if they don’t join the open enrollment program. School boards, however, can tweak this policy a bit.
The bill’s cost is estimated to be around $80 million from the state’s budget for the year 2026. This money will support the Parent Public School Choice Fund, which might be used to help with things like bus rides for students.
Next, the bill will be considered by the Missouri Senate, where it has not passed in the past. But this time, leaders in the Senate who are Republicans see giving families more school choices, including open enrollment, as important for this session.
If the bill gets approved by both the House and Senate, it won’t start until the school year of 2025-2026.
Rep. Ed Lewis, a Republican from Moberly, supported the bill by mentioning that a lot of school districts in Missouri see students moving in and out more than 3% already. He explained that this bill would help families who want to send their kids to a nearby school without having to move homes.
Some Democrats opposed the bill
However, several Democrats opposed the bill. For example, Rep. Marlene Terry, from St. Louis County, argued that the bill could harm her community.
“Until we come up with something that’s going to fix all our public schools where no child would have to leave their community to get an education, or what you call a better education…this is a problem,” Terry said.