The Missouri Supreme Court’s ruling on Breitenfeld v. School District of Clayton on June 11 reversed a lower court decision and found that state statute 167.131does not violate the Hancock Amendment. The statute provides that an unaccredited school district must pay tuition for students to attend school in another accredited district in the same or an adjoining county.
The three unaccredited districts are Normandy, Riverview Gardens and Kansas City. Because Kansas City is part of a pending lawsuit, that district does not have to implement the transfer for the coming school year, but both Normandy and Riverview Gardens do.
The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has created guidelines for the implementation of the transfers. The guidelines are outlined on their website. The basics are that students in the unaccredited districts can apply for admission to any accredited district in St. City or St. Louis, St. Charles, Jefferson or Franklin Counties.
The home district must pay tuition to any district to which a student is admitted and provide transportation to one district. Normandy has chosen the Francis Howell School District and Riverview Gardens has chosen the Mehlville School District as the ones to which they will provide transportation. Parents must provide the transportation to any other district.
Applications are being accepted at the home districts through July 31. Then Cooperating School Districts will process the applications and inform students of their assignment. In cases where there are more applications than openings, a lottery will be instituted to make assignments. Each student is asked for three choices on the application.
The school transfer process is complicated by the short length of time to implement it. A number of meetings have been held to inform parents and students of the application process and their rights. One particularly contentious one was held on July 11 in the Francis Howell district where parents from both Francis Howell and Normandy were given the opportunity to ask questions and give feedback. Emotions ran high as Francis Howell parents expressed a number of concerns, many around the issue of safety, and Normandy parents talked of concern over negative stereotypes, how their children would be accepted and the long distance their students would travel each day. In a meeting earlier in the week, Riverview Gardens parents had concerns about the long distance to Mehlville and the time their children would spend on the bus.
St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh discussed the many issues surrounding school transfer with St. Louis Public Radio reporters Chris McDaniel and Tim Lloyd, retired educator John Wright, Cooperating School Districts Communication Director David Kuschel and Missouri Commissioner of Education Chris Nicastro in an effort to increase understanding of the history, application process and effects on all parties involved.