School Transfers

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 | sxc.hu

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.

Credit Cast a Line / Flickr

Statistic after statistic, ranking after ranking shows American students lagging behind their counterparts across the globe. Missouri’s schools are no exception. Missouri is a perfect example of our country’s diseased public education system. Three districts are currently unaccredited by the state — Kansas City, Riverview Gardens and Normandy — and the St. Louis Public School  system is on the brink, sitting in “provisional accreditation” purgatory.

Mehlville website

Eric Knost, whose job as the superintendent of the Mehlville School District thrust him into the middle of this school year’s student transfer drama, has resigned that job and is in line to become superintendent of the Rockwood schools.

In a notice posted on Mehlville's Facebook page, Knost said he was released from his superintendent’s position, effective June 30, during a closed meeting of that district’s school board Monday night.

Supporters of Normandy School District Rally

Mar 15, 2014
St. Louis Public Radio

“Normandy Strong” was the cry Saturday at a rally for supporters of the Normandy School District, whose future is uncertain after losing accreditation and bearing the tuition costs of students transferred to other districts.

Officials estimate the district will be bankrupt in April if millions of dollars in supplemental funding isn’t approved by the legislature. Supporters are hopeful that the district, currently unaccredited, can survive this school year and beyond.  

St. Louis Public Radio File Photo

With the Missouri legislature approaching its spring break, the Senate has passed a sweeping education bill designed to deal with struggling schools and transfers from unaccredited districts, and a bill addressing similar issues is ready for debate in the House.

Normandy website

Normandy’s school superintendent says the district’s finances can be helped if lawmakers would cap tuition paid for transfer students at the same amount that districts receive for accepting deseg students going from St. Louis to St. Louis County.

That amount, about $7,200 a year, is less than Normandy has been paying for most of its 1,000 students who transferred to nearby accredited districts at the start of the current school year. Tuition rates range to as high as $20,000, and the payments have put Normandy’s finances at a precarious point.

An empty desk
Bubbles | sxc.hu

(Story updated at 5:42 p.m. to include today's 3rd-read vote by the full Senate that sent SB 493 to the Missouri House.)

After spending two days debating and amending legislation to lessen the effects of Missouri's student transfer law, the state Senate overwhelmingly passed it Thursday.

UPI/Bill Greenblatt

The Missouri Senate has begun debate on legislation to lessen the effects of the state's student transfer law.

The wide-ranging bill attempts to address both the law and unaccredited districts.  Provisions within Senate Bill 493 include accrediting individual school buildings instead of districts as a whole and creating regional authorities across the state to oversee transfers.

Provided by SLU Law School

Nearly 60 years after school segregation was outlawed, two members of the family most associated with the case say that the St. Louis area student transfers show that the true goals of the Supreme Court's ruling remain unfulfilled.

Linda Brown Thompson and Cheryl Brown Henderson, whose Topeka, Kan., family was the lead plaintiff in the landmark 1954 ruling, told an audience at Saint Louis University law school Friday that their case was more about equality of resources and opportunity than simply letting black and white students sit together.

An empty desk
Bubbles | sxc.hu

While St. Louisans celebrated our past this week, the news held hints of our future.  Most significant was a proposal from state education officials to revamp how they deal with troubled districts.

Long term, the proposal would allow state officials to intervene early and with a range of approaches. Short term, the state board took financial control of the Normandy schools – a move that caught district officials by surprise.

Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio

Nine bills that either directly addressed or were related to school transfers and accreditation were combined into one bill and passed Thursday by the Missouri Senate's Education Committee.

Normandy website

JEFFERSON CITY – The Missouri State Board of Education surprised the Normandy School District Tuesday by voting to take over its finances in a bid to bolster chances that the district would get $5 million in emergency funds to help it finish the school year.

The state Board also directed the education commissioner to appoint a transition task force immediately to develop a plan for the operation of the Normandy Schools starting in July 2014, if the General Assembly fails to appropriate additional funds for the district, and if the district lapses.

KWMU Staff

Much like apple pie and motherhood, everybody wants better schools and higher student achievement. The only problem is that no one can quite agree what's the best way to get there.

Once a week, our team of education reporters would like to share stories that look at trends in education here and across the country. In particular, we want to focus on people, research and even gizmos that may help make kids learn better. This week, we've discovered some high-tech — and low-tech — solutions.

Mistrust of CEE-Trust

Missouri House website

Rep. Rick Stream, chairman of the Missouri House Budget Committee, filed two bills Thursday that could help the Normandy School District avert going bankrupt in April.

One bill, part of a supplemental appropriations request, would provide $5 million in emergency funds for Normandy to help the district finish out the year. The other would result in districts that have received tuition payments for students transferring from unaccredited Normandy paying back some of that money to the district.

Don Senti, executive director, EducationPlus
EducationPlus website

If Normandy School District goes bankrupt and its students are sent to other area schools, the effect would be dramatic both financially and educationally, according to a study released Tuesday by the group EducationPlus.

school buses
Flickr

JEFFERSON CITY -- From the start of Monday’s six-hour session considering a variety of ways to help struggling schools, the head of the Missouri board of education emphasized that the state is concerned about long-range, broad-based policy, not the operations of individual districts.

But as board members heard a number of presentations on suggested reforms, the talk returned time and again to the current transfers out of unaccredited school districts and the impact on the students who live there.

Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio

Every week, St. Louis Public Radio and the Beacon's Chris McDaniel, Jo Mannies and Jason Rosenbaum talk about the week’s politics.

This week, Jo Mannies hosted state House Budget chairman Rick Stream, a Republican from Kirkwood. She was joined by Marshall Griffin of St. Louis Public Radio’s Jefferson City bureau. (Listen to an earlier podcast with Stream.)

On the show, Stream said:

Tim Lloyd / St. Louis Public Radio/The Beacon

As Missouri education officials continue to gather public comment on what the state should do to help unaccredited school districts, one sentiment became clear Wednesday night:

The public needs to have a strong voice in whatever plans are adopted.

In the second of four hearings in the latest round of attempts by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to gauge public sentiment about a variety of plans put forth so far, about 200 people showed up at the J.C. Penney Auditorium on the campus of the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

comedy_nose / Flickr

For CEE-Trust, a consultant hired by Missouri education officials to propose ways to reverse what it calls “disastrous” student performance in Kansas City, nothing less than sweeping change is required.

Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio

Five identical bills that would each revamp Missouri's student transfer law were examined Wednesday by a State Senate committee.

Credit Marshall Griffin, St. Louis Public Radio and the Beacon

Every week, St. Louis Public Radio and the Beacon's Chris McDaniel, Jo Mannies and Jason Rosenbaum talk about the week’s politics. 

It's another two-part edition of the podcast. Marshall Griffin joins the Politically Speaking crew to talk about Gov. Jay Nixon's State of the State speech and the latest developments involving Missouri's death penalty. Senate Minority Leader Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, joins Chris, Jo and Jason for the second part of the show. 

(via Flickr/frankjuarez)

JEFFERSON CITY -- After hearing a one-hour presentation by CEE-Trust of its proposal on how to help struggling schools in Kansas City -- and possibly throughout Missouri -- members of the state board of education had an hour's worth of questions on their own.

Now, the process begins to combine the CEE-Trust report with other recommendations and suggestions from the public to determine the best way to proceed. 

comedy nose | Flickr

Updated at 1:34 p.m., Mon., Jan. 13 with news of  unexpectedly large turnout at Jefferson City meeting.

To reverse student performance in Kansas City that it calls  “disastrous,” a consultant hired by Missouri education officials is proposing a makeover that would direct more money to individual schools, recruit outside nonprofit groups to run them and address non-academic needs such as health care, nutrition and even laundry services to prepare students better to learn.

Marshall Griffin, St. Louis Public Radio

Two topics dominated St. Louisans' news this week -- unusual cold and snow returned to our region and Missouri legislators returned to Jefferson City.

It would be snarky to ask which poses the greater threat to public welfare. Yet as the bad weather rolled out and the legislators rolled in, I couldn't help but notice certain parallels in the way we think about these natural and political phenomena.

KB35 | Flickr

Even as lawmakers and others got ready to craft possible changes to the transfer law, EducationPlus released guidelines for the next round of student transfers beginning this coming August.

The first round was a rushed affair. The Missouri Supreme Court did not uphold the transfer law until June 11, though the suit involved had been winding its way through the courts for several years and had already been upheld by the high court once.

(via Flickr/alkruse24)

As planning begins for school transfers in the St. Louis area in the academic year that starts in August, and Missouri lawmakers return to Jefferson City for the new legislative session, one issue will loom large for both groups:

What changes, if any, will come to the transfer law that has dominated so many headlines, discussions and school board meetings in recent months?

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