The Normandy School District will pay the tuition bills for students who've transferred away from the unaccredited district. The school board voted Wednesday night to reverse its October decision to withhold the funds.
Board members had objected to paying the nearly $1.4 million bill because the cash strapped district is already struggling to cover the cost of educating its remaining students. But withholding of the tuition had put the district at odds with state law, and in jeopardy of losing state funds.
Parents and teachers again asked the board to reconsider planned budget cuts that will result in teacher layoffs and one school closure.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A group of Missouri school superintendents has developed an alternative to a state law allowing students to transfer from unaccredited to accredited districts.
The Kansas City Star reports that under the plan, students in struggling districts could transfer to better-performing schools in their home districts. And after five years of failure, districts could be dissolved and distributed to accredited districts.
Twenty leaders from around Missouri drafted the school-improvement plan and provided it to The Star on Monday. The draft says the existing transfer law "is not in the best interest of all students and will not lead to improvement of unaccredited districts."
A spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education says Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro hasn't yet had a chance to review the proposal.
Normandy Schools Superintendent Ty McNichols will outline proposed budget cuts at Thursday night's school board meeting. But Wednesday, district officials briefed employees about the plan as the struggling district tries to cover transfer costs for hundreds of students.
Teachers learned yesterday that 103 of the district's 650 employees will lose their jobs by the end of December. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that layoff notices will go out next month.
District officials say class sizes could go as high as 29 students and Bel-Nor Elementary School is expected to close.
The district is projecting a $6.8 million shortfall this school year because of the added cost of the state mandated school transfer program.
The Riverview Gardens School District will offset some of the $15 million they're spending on the school transfer program with a series of budget cuts, but no layoffs so far.
District officials outlined the cuts Tuesday. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the district will save as much as $3 million by leaving teacher vacancies unfilled, slashing the professional development budget, modifying the busing contract and through other savings in technology and facilities costs.
Even with the budget cuts, the district will be more than $7 million in the red if transfer costs remain the same in the 2014-15 school year.
Teachers in the Normandy District have been told they won't avoid layoffs as that district deals with transfer costs. On Thursday, Superintendent Ty McNichols will present a staff reduction plan that could include a school closing. Normandy officials say they will run $6.8 million short before the end of this school year.
After the state Supreme Court upheld Missouri’s school transfer law, more than 2,000 students opted to transfer out of the unaccredited districts and attend better performing schools. Under the law, their home districts must cover costs.
Normandy officials say it's too soon to say whether the cost of hundreds of students transferring out of the unaccredited district will lead to major budget cuts.
Assistant Superintendent of Operations, Mick Willis, told board members Wednesday night that staffing levels, the number of buildings the district can operate and the number of services it can provide are largely driven by the number of students enrolled in the district.
"We have to pay a lot of attention to enrollment, what those numbers look like," Willis said. "And then where we should be relative to those enrollment numbers."
A final budget recommendation will be made to the board in June, after property tax revenues are determined.
Parents who attended Wednesday's board meeting were more concerned about the district's progress toward accreditation.
There are a lot of problems with Missouri's school transfer law, but no easy solutions. That's what state lawmakers heard from St. Louis area school administrators and state educators during five hours of hearings Tuesday.
The legislators are considering changes to the current law that allows students in unaccredited districts to transfer to better schools at the expense of their home district. Issues of cost were a repeated theme yesterday.
Three districts in the state are currently unaccredited: Normandy, Riverview Gardens and Kansas City. But with 11 other districts only having provisional accreditation and new state education standards, there is concern that the transfer situation could be much more widespread in the next few years.
The many issues surrounding education in Missouri has lawmakers taking a closer look at student transfers, teacher evaluations and school safety. An interim House committee on education is holding hearings on those and other topics this week in several communities. Meetings today in St. Charles and St. Louis will focus on student transfers out of unaccredited districts. This fall, students from the Riverview Gardens and Normandy districts became the first in Missouri to transfer to neighboring districts. Meanwhile, the Joint Committee on Education has scheduled a hearing October 1 in Jefferson City focused solely on student transfers.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri education officials are seeking an additional $6.8 million to help an unaccredited school district in the St. Louis area.
The State Board of Education approved the budget request Tuesday for the Normandy district. That's the first step in a process that ultimately requires the support of the governor and Legislature to become a reality.
Students started transferring out of the Normandy and Riverview Gardens districts this year under a state law that requires unaccredited districts to pay the costs for students who want to attend other public schools.
The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education says Normandy is projected to run out of money in March.
The additional funding recommended Tuesday would come as a supplemental state budget item to be considered after lawmakers convene in January.
The first tuition bill is in for Normandy students who transferred to Francis Howell.
Four hundred forty-nine transfer students began classes in Francis Howell schools on August 8th. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the total due now is just over $424,000. Francis Howell Chief Financial Officer Kevin Supple told the paper the bill was sent Tuesday via email.
Normandy officials say the invoice must be processed and approved by the school board, which could take a month or more.
Missouri education officials have suggested unaccredited districts pay tuition bills within 10 days. State officials have also said they will withhold state aid distributions if an unaccredited district falls two months behind in paying transfer tuition.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The State Board of Education is increasing its oversight of Missouri's unaccredited schools and hiring a consultant to help develop an improvement plan.
The board's action comes in advance of an Aug. 28 effective date for a new law allowing the state to more quickly intervene in unaccredited schools. Three districts currently lack accreditation - Kansas City and the suburban St. Louis systems of Normandy and Riverview Gardens.
State Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro says state personnel will increase classroom visits and interaction with local education officials.
The board also approved a contract with The Cities for Education Entrepreneurship Trust to analyze the reasons for failure in the Kansas City School District and make recommendations to improve it. The suggestions also could be used for other schools.