Issue Background

Open Enrollment


HB 303 and HB 543 comparison

HB 543 Finance

MSBA Adovcacy Position VI. L.
MSBA opposes any legislation that would permit parents to select schools outside of their district unless the legislation meets all of the following:

  1. Address all financial issues, including the determination of how state and local funds will follow nonresident students, and hold districts harmless from loss of funds.
  2. Ensure that administrative issues such as space availability and transportation are defined by the receiving districts.
  3. Not be part of any tax credit, deduction for tuition and related educational expenses, and other similar credit systems or any voucher program.
  4. Not foster racial, social or economic segregation.
  5. Require students to make at least a one-year commitment.

House Bill 303 (Wiemann) and House Bill 543 (Pollitt) create open enrollment between school districts, where students living in one district are allowed to attend schools in another Missouri public school district free of charge.  The resident district is required to pay the non-resident district the per-pupil local effort and the nonresident district will count the student as a resident for state and federal funding.

  1. These bills require taxpayers of one school district to subsidize other school districts, without a vote on how those funds are spent.  Many school districts in Missouri are heavily funded by local taxpayers through school levies. These levies were passed by taxpayers with the expectation that those funds would be spent to educate resident students in the district’s schools. These bills undermine the trust of the local taxpayers by sending local funds to other districts where the taxpayers do not vote for the school board and do not have political influence over how the funds are spent.
  2. House Bill 303 requires school districts to admit students even if the district would not receive full funding from the district of residence. House Bill 543 makes participation optional, but HB 303 does not. Once again, the local taxpayers have agreed to pay taxes to maintain local schools and to keep class sizes small.  MSBA is concerned that the local taxpayers will feel betrayed and will not approve future tax initiatives if the school district is forced to admit nonresident students and cannot keep its promises.
  3. House Bill 543 requires nonresident districts to fund student transportation. Even though the state pays districts less than a third of what it is required to pay by law to districts for transporting students, this bill will require school districts to spend local dollars to reimburse nonresident parents for transportation if the student is eligible for free or reduced lunch.
  4. These bills would allow parents and students to shop school districts based on athletic opportunities, not academics. While these bills prohibit school districts from admitting nonresident students solely on the basis of athletics, they do not prohibit parents from prioritizing and applying to schools because of extracurricular opportunities. Regardless of district involvement, this will mean that parents that prioritize sports will flock to districts with strong athletic programs.
  5. These bills will not stop private companies from pushing charter schools and may be used to expand enrollment in charter schools. Proponents of this bill say that open enrollment will counteract advocates of charter school expansion. But private management companies and for-profit virtual course providers will still have a financial incentive to push more charter schools. The charter school expansion issue is not going away.