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Video highlights benefit of open enrollment legislation

Parents would be able to send their children to neighboring public schools under a bill filed in the Missouri General Assembly this year.

Under current state law, families are prohibited from choosing certain public schools – even ones close to their homes – because of outdated boundary lines and strict enrollment policies. Bills now being considered in the House and Senate would allow public school students to attend a school in a different district under certain conditions.

Those pieces of legislation are highlighted in a video being released today by the Missouri Education Reform Council. In the video, a lawmaker, former superintendent and a parent tout the benefits of open enrollment, which would ultimately foster parental involvement and boost performance of public schools by creating competition.

“We think competition is a good thing because in business and even in higher education, we see competition and it creates for a better school experience, better school systems,” said Senate Education Committee Chair Rob Mayer, a Republican from Dexter.

The legislation also targets the fact that neighboring schools are not only closer for some families, they also might perform as well or better than in-district schools.

For instance, children now attending New Madrid School within the New Madrid County school district have little choice if that school does not best fit their academic needs. Currently, those families can choose to transfer to Lilbourn Elementary, which is the closest school in the district’s boundaries despite being 12.6 miles away, but New Madrid Elementary children can’t attend Portageville Elementary, just 5 miles away, because it’s not in the same district.

Portageville Elementary outscores both Lilbourn and New Madrid on Missouri Assessment Program test scores. Last year, 25.2 percent of Lilbourn fourth graders were at grade level or above in communication arts, significantly less than the 60.7 percent of Portageville Elementary fourth graders scoring proficient or advanced. And 62 percent of Lilbourn fourth-grade students were proficient or above in math, compared to 68.9 percent of fourth graders at Portageville Elementary.

The Missouri Education Roundatable Council’s mission is to promote improvement in Missouri’s K-12 educational system, including increasing performance, accountability and transparency.