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.
Normandy school officials are eyeing cuts to cover the $15 million in tuition costs for 1,600 students who transferred out of the unaccredited district. Superintendent Ty McNichols says he's begun identifying teachers and programs that will fall to the budget ax.
McNichols told a group of about 40 people gathered a a policy breakfast at the Show-Me Institute Tuesday that he's also working to bolster academics, attendance and the graduation rate in the failing district. But he says he doesn't expect to make big advances before the next transfer application deadline rolls around in February.
Normandy has just two months to pay the first of the tuition bills which arrived last week, or the Missouri education department will withhold funding.
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.
Missouri school districts and parents are getting a more detailed picture school performance with the release of the state's new rating system today. The new system replaces the old 14 point scale with a percentage score based on test scores, attendance, graduation rates and other criteria.
The changes mean finer distinctions between high-performing districts.
It could also mean more districts lose accreditation, including two local districts that don't quite measure up under the new standards: University City and Ferguson-Florissant. But the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that state officials are not likely to use the scores to take away accreditation until at least 2015, when they have three years of data to consider.
The figures show just how far struggling school districts have to go to become fully accredited again. The unaccredited Normandy district earned just 11 percent. The unaccredited Riverview Gardens district faired a little better at just under 29 percent. And the provisionally accredited St. Louis Public Schools scored just below 25 percent. Districts need 50 percent for provisional accreditation and 70 percent or more to be fully accredited.
Parents of students in the Riverview Gardens and Normandy School Districts came together for a rally this morning.
The parents are issuing a call for higher quality education. Attendees argued that it was unfair for Mehlville to turn students away because of class-size concerns. The parents also called on Riverview Gardens and Normandy to become more transparent this school year.
The State of Missouri may have to pay part of the costs for the school transfer program. The unaccredited Normandy School District will spend between 15 and 18 million dollars to send hundreds of students to Francis Howell and other, better performing districts. Missouri Education Commissioner Dr. Chris Nicastro told Fox 2 News that at that rate, Normandy will likely run out of money before the end of the school year.
"If Normandy cannot meet their obligations, then there's going to have to be some money come from somewhere," Nicastro said. "The legislature's the only body I know of that can appropriate those funds."
Dr. Nicastro says the costs could go up next year. That's when new education standards kick in across the state, which she believes will cause more districts to become unaccredited.
ST. CHARLES, Mo. (AP) - A wave of school transfers spurred by a recent Missouri Supreme Court ruling is opening old wounds and reviving difficult conversations in St. Louis about race, class and equal access to public education.
Nearly 2,600 students from the unaccredited Normandy and Riverview Gardens districts are leaving for better-performing schools in other districts, with the two troubled districts required to pay an estimated $30 million to accommodate the moves. School leaders say it's only a matter of time before they go bankrupt.
Parents, politicians and community leaders in some outlying districts say they worry the newcomers will bring increased delinquency, larger class sizes and lower test scores. Much of the outrage was on display last month at public school board meeting of the Francis Howell district, which begins classes on Thursday.
School starts in Kirkwood on August 20th and Tuesday night parents in the south county district learned how their schools will be affected by the transfer of more than 150 students from Normandy and Riverview Gardens.
Kirkwood School Board spokesperson Ginger Cayce says class sizes may fluctuate slightly, but not enough to cause concern. Cayce says the $12,000 per transfer student that the district will receive will cover the cost of any extra resources needed. Cayce says the money would be spent on "technology, support staff resources, and any additional teachers or teachers aides we might need in the classroom."
About 650 people attended Tuesday night's meeting at Kirkwood High. There were questions about test scores and athletic opportunities, but most showed support for the students coming from the unaccredited districts. One man even donated money to help cover "incidental costs" for transfer students. He called on others with the means to do so as well.
Student leaders and over a hundred mentors spent time transitioning Normandy students to the Francis Howell School District.
475 Normandy students made the leap to the accredited district. The number breaks down to 168 elementary school students, 164, middle school students, and 143 high schoolers. The kids spent the day getting tours of the schools, participating in team-building activities, and locating their lockers.
The first day of school is Thursday.
As the start of the new school year fast approaches, more than 300 students who want to transfer out of the troubled Riverview Gardens and Normandy school districts still don't know where they'll attend classes. That's because of the limited availability of open seats in some districts they've applied to attend.
Many students didn't get into one of their first three choices of districts, or didn't list more than one choice. So officials with the Cooperating School Districts have extended the application deadline for the still unassigned transfer students.
Families can submit a new list of choices. Those who don't re-apply on the Cooperating School Districts website by noon Monday will not be able to transfer out of the unaccredited districts.
All of the Normandy students transferring to Francis Howell Districts did get their requests filled. About 2,400 Riverview Garden students have also received transfer assignments.