School Transfers


As Missouri schools begin preparing for another year of student transfers, the woman who brought the case all the way to the state Supreme Court is at the brink of bankruptcy and wondering where her daughters will get their education this fall.

Gina Breitenfeld is being sued by the Clayton School District for more than $24,000 in unpaid tuition. She says that the financial toll of the case, plus unpleasant comments about the transfers made within earshot of her daughters, prompted her to pull them out of the Clayton schools toward the end of the just completed school year.

Mehlville website

Some of St. Louis Public Radio’s best work this week wasn’t breaking news. It was making sense of news that broke days or even months earlier.

It’s been a year since the court ruling that opened the door to student transfers from Normandy and Riverview Gardens to Francis Howell, Mehlville, Kirkwood and other districts. Reporter Dale Singer circled back this week to ask key participants to reflect on their hopes, fears and actual experiences.


One year ago Wednesday, the Missouri Supreme Court threw the lives of thousands of students, teachers, parents and school administrators into a turmoil that shows no signs of stopping.

By unanimously overturning a lower court ruling and allowing students in unaccredited school districts to transfer to nearby accredited schools, the court enforced a 20-year-old law in a way that no one had foreseen would ever happen.

As a result:

Jess Jiang / St. Louis Public Radio

A  year ago today, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that students who live in unaccredited school districts should be able to transfer to better schools, with their home districts having to foot the bill. The decision opened the door for about 2,000 kids in the north county districts of Normandy and Riverview Gardens to transfer to nearby schools. 

Chris Nicastro
DESE website

Missouri education officials are going to recommend that under the new Normandy school entity, which takes effect July 1, students who have transferred from that district to nearby accredited districts would still be able to do so, but tuition rates would be capped at about $7,200. No new transfers would be allowed.

Under the state plan, the transportation situation for transfer students would stay the same.

KWMU Staff

With a veto of the school transfer bill all but certain, Missouri lawmakers who worked on the wide-ranging legislation say they hoped a compromise could still be reached on the question of using public money to pay tuition at nonsectarian private schools.

But they acknowledged that it won’t be easy coming up with terms that will please Republicans and Democrats, urban, suburban and rural lawmakers — and Gov. Jay Nixon.

Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

This week, St. Louis Public Radio's education reporter Dale Singer joins Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies as we welcome back state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, to the show. 

The Politically Speaking podcast is diverging from our usual alternating schedule of Republican and Democratic guests. Instead, we are focusing on opposing views on one of the region's hottest issues: the transfer of students from the Normandy and Riverview Gardens school districts -- both unaccredited -- to neighboring districts.

(Flickr/Cast a Line)

After telegraphing his intention for a week, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Friday announced that he is indeed going to veto the student-transfer bill because of its provisions allowing public money to be used for private schools.

He also faults the bill because it does not require unaccredited sending districts to pay any transportation costs for students transferring to accredited districts, as the schools now are required to do.

(via Flickr/comedy_nose)

Missouri education officials, who control the finances of the Normandy school district, say they won’t pay the costs of a lawsuit that asks the courts to take another look at the student transfer case.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in St. Louis County Circuit Court, wants a reconsideration of two issues the Missouri Supreme Court rejected in its unanimous decision last year that set in motion the student transfers: unfunded mandates and the impossibility to comply with the transfer law.

/ Tim Lloyd, St. Louis Public Radio

 It’s just after 7 a.m., and SheRon Chaney already has her family packed into an SUV and ready for school.

“On a good day like today, I’m hoping it only takes about 35 minutes,” she said.

Leave just a touch later and they could be stuck in traffic for more than an hour. It’s a quirk of St. Louis' commuter culture that Chaney picked up when she decided to transfer her seventh-grade daughter, BrenNae, out of the Normandy School District in favor of Maplewood Richmond Heights.

Entrance to Normandy High School campus
Google Maps screen capture

One day after the Missouri Board of Education voted to replace the Normandy school district with a new, state-controlled entity, Normandy filed suit challenging the law that lets students transfer from unaccredited districts.

Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

This week, St. Louis Public Radio's state Capitol reporter Marshall Griffin joins Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies to talk with state Rep. Clem Smith.

The Velda Village Hills Democrat represents a number of small municipalities in St. Louis County, including most of the cities within the embattled Normandy School District. 

Note: You can subscribe to us on iTunes.

Entrance to Normandy High School campus
Google Maps screen capture

Recent national data indicate that schools are becoming resegregated and African Americans are less likely to be in integrated schools. That is why the continuation of the recent student transfer plan is so important.

The Missouri Legislature just passed a new complex, comprehensive student transfer bill, which unfortunately has so many flaws that it is likely to be vetoed by the governor. Should that be the case, the current transfer program for students from Normandy and Riverview Gardens will remain in existence until a reasonable alternative becomes law.

Entrance to Normandy High School campus
Google Maps screen capture

(Updated at 4:54 p.m., Tues., May 20)

COLUMBIA, Mo. – The Missouri Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday to replace the Normandy School District with a new entity with the same boundaries but run by an appointed board, effective July 1.

Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

Gov. Jay Nixon once again signaled that he might strike down school transfer legislation that passed out of the General Assembly last week. 

Jason Rosenbaum/St. Louis Public Radio

Few could accuse the Missouri General Assembly of languishing during its last few days of session.

In fact, the legislature’s last dash was something of a whirlwind: It featured fierce debates over bills about student transfers and abortion restrictions. Lawmakers also sent proposals on a transportation tax and early voting procedures to the November ballot. Other efforts fizzled out, including last-minute pushes to expand and reconfigure the state’s Medicaid system.


Updated at 9:35 a.m. Monday with clarification on tuition rates, link to final bill text.

Two bills passed by Missouri lawmakers this week would have a significant impact on how and what students in the state are taught – if the legislation escapes a veto by Gov. Jay Nixon.

And that doesn’t include the financial impact the governor says will occur because of the tax-cut bill that the House and Senate passed into law over his veto earlier this month.

knittymarie / Flickr

A tumultuous school year in Missouri is about to end, and a new era in school choice could be about to begin.

Bill Greenblatt | UPI

The Missouri legislative session’s finale played out this week with members in their usual swivet of last-minute activity and suspense. Watching the action in the closing days is like watching the cap dance at a Cardinals’ game — blink and you lose track of what’s going on.

UPI/Bill Greenblatt

(Updated 10 a.m. Friday, May 16)

The Missouri House has passed the so-called student transfer fix, sending it to Gov. Jay Nixon one day before the end of the 2014 legislative session.

Senate Bill 493 would allow for individual school buildings to be accredited instead of the district as a whole, and it would create regional authorities to oversee student transfers.

Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, praised the bill late Thursday as "the most far-reaching education reform measure in decades."

Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal
Missouri Senate

A long-simmering feud between Gov. Jay Nixon and some black politicians, going back to his days as Missouri’s attorney general, flared up again in Jefferson City this week, fanned by the debate over school transfer legislation.

But not all African-American officials are taking sides against the governor. Some, especially in the state House, are urging Nixon to veto the student transfer bill, because they consider its changes in the transfer law harmful to black students.

Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri Senate has passed the final version of legislation designed to ease the burden of the state's school transfer law. It includes a provision that would end free transportation for transfer students -- a provision that would make it harder for students from failing schools to actually attend other districts.

Jason Rosenbaum/St. Louis Public Radio

The final days of the Missouri General Assembly's session can produce triumph, frustration, anger and befuddlement -- all in the span of an hour or two.

All of these disparate emotions take place in the living, breathing Missouri Capitol. And while describing that "last few days of session" essence can be difficult, it can perhaps be portrayed in a series of photographs.

St. Louis Public Radio reporter Jason Rosenbaum spent a couple of days in Jefferson City this week. He found time in his jam-packed schedule to take some pictures.

Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio

(Updated at 6:12 p.m.)

House and Senate negotiators have wrapped up work on a final version of a bill to ease the burden of Missouri’s student transfer law.

Senate Bill 493 would allow for individual school buildings to be accredited, instead of the school district as a whole, and it would create regional authorities to oversee transfers.

Flickr | jimbowen0306)

With fights over tax cuts and budgets out of the way, the Missouri General Assembly appears poised to spend its final week focusing on some familiar topics: guns, abortion and voting rights.


Measures to restrict enforcement of federal laws, triple the waiting period for an abortion and to ask voters to mandate photo IDs at the polls are among the hot-button proposals expected to eat up some of legislators’ precious floor time during the final five days.

Tim Lloyd / St. Louis Public Radio

Even though they’ve been talking all semester, high school junior Meagan Nalepa and senior Shakiyla Hughes have finally sat at the same lunch table.

Nalepa goes to Parkway North High School, Hughes attends Normandy High School, and both have been participating in a series of video conferences on education policy between students from the two schools. For the first time, they met face to face at Normandy High School on Tuesday.

Entrance to Normandy High School campus
Google Maps screen capture

 The Missouri House has passed an amended version of a Senate bill designed to lessen the impact of the state's student transfer law.

An empty desk
Bubbles |

Despite opposition from a coalition of Missouri school groups, a bipartisan panel of lawmakers said Friday that to win passage, school transfer legislation needs to include the option of non-sectarian private schools.

State Sens. John Lamping, R-Ladue, and Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, along with House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, discussed the issue at a forum on tax-credit scholarships. With three weeks left in the legislative session, a transfer bill that passed overwhelmingly in the Senate is now moving through the House.

House website

As the Missouri House begins consideration of a school transfer bill, state Rep. Rick Stream, R-Kirkwood, the House budget chairman who has taken the lead on the transfer issue, has made clear what his bottom line for the bill is. He says the final product must cover four basic areas:

Normandy website

Depending on how tuition calculations for transfer students are figured for the coming school year, the Normandy School District — if it still exists — could end the upcoming school year with a deficit of as much as $11.7 million, district officials said Tuesday.

Addressing the latest meeting of a task force formed to determine options for Normandy’s future, Mick Willis, the district’s assistant superintendent of operations, presented four scenarios for the 2014-15 school year.