MSBA & OPEN ENROLLMENT: THE FACTS

In a recent tweet, we pointed out that the Missouri School Boards’ Association (MSBA) had provided written testimony in support of the proposed open enrollment bill, HB 1814.  As part of a subsequent legislative update, MSBA claimed that “there is considerable misinformation being shared about MSBA’s position on this bill.” In light of this claim, we felt it was important to provide some facts to be objectively considered. Here are the facts as we know them:

  • In November 2021, MSBA changed its long-standing legislative advocacy position on open enrollment to relax the requirements for MSBA to support proposed legislation regarding open enrollment.  For example, the previous platform stated that any proposed bill on open enrollment must “[a]ddress all financial issues, including the determination of how state and local funds will follow nonresident students, and hold districts harmless from loss of funds.”  This language was replaced with the requirement that “[a]ll local funding remains with the resident district.”
  • On February 1, 2022, Brandt Shields, a lobbyist for MSBA, provided written testimony in support of HB 1814.  
    • The form for written testimony regarding the bill on open enrollment was marked “in support of,” rather than “in opposition to” or “for informational purposes.”   See attached Witness Appearance Form, dated February 1, 2022.
    • The text provided at bottom of the form stated that MSBA appreciated “Rep. Pollitt’s work on the bill and the care he has put in place to account for the various intricacies of Missouri school law, while also respecting local control of school districts and the decisions to participate in this program.”
  • On February 3, 2022, Susan Goldammer sent an email to a member district, copying Mike Reid, a lobbyist for MSBA.  In her email she stated the following regarding HB 1814:
    • “MSBA testified in favor of the bill because it mostly aligns with the advocacy positions approved in November and the couple of areas where it does not align the bill sponsor is working with us to get there.” 
    • “This is a tough one for sure, but we are being careful to make sure we are following the will of the Delegates.  Please let us know if you have concerns.  We of course never like to be on opposite sides of the issues with the other education groups.  But this is one area where there is a lot of disagreement.”
  • On February 11, 2022, the MSBA Legislative Voice provided an update that states:
    • “It is disappointing that there is considerable misinformation being shared about MSBA’s position on this bill.”
    • “It is important to understand that MSBA is not backing bill passage on Open Enrollment.” 
    • HB 1814 “meets all the requirements set forth by MSBA’s delegates in our advocacy position” (emphasis added).  See attached Legislative Voice, February 11, 2022.
    • “MSBA submitted written testimony stating support for Representative Pollitt’s respect for local control, but not the bill itself.”

Notably, MSBA has not stated that it is in opposition to HB 1814, nor open enrollment generally.   Furthermore, in light of the foregoing, it seems reasonable that MSBA should answer for its members the following questions:

  1. Why was the MSBA advocacy position on open enrollment redrafted to relax the requirements for the bill to be acceptable to MSBA prior to it being presented to the Delegate Assembly for approval?
  2. Why did MSBA indicate on the Written Appearance Form it was in support of HB 1814 if it was not in support of the bill?  If the goal was to express support and appreciation for Rep. Pollitt, why not simply mark the form as “for informational purposes” instead of “in support of” the bill?
  3. Why is MSBA stating to its members that HB 1814 “meets all the requirements” of the MSBA advocacy position when it does not, and an attorney for MSBA has acknowledged as much?

MSBA should publicly answer these questions.  Moreover, if MSBA is actually opposed to HB 1814, it should publicly and unequivocally state that they oppose the bill.  This is the only way that legislators and MSBA members will actually know what MSBA’s position really is on this critical issue.