School Transfers | St. Louis Public Radio

School Transfers

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. 

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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. 

After he helped break ground on an expansion to the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Nixon told reporters that he would move the transfer bill to the “very top of the list to review.” The multifaceted bill makes a number of changes to the law that allows students in unaccredited school districts to go to different schools. (Click here to read a detailed story on what the bill does.)

The Democratic governor once again zeroed in on a provision that could allow students in unaccredited districts to transfer to private, nonsectarian schools. That, he said, amounts to a voucher program, which the governor has opposed for years.

“It violates the constitution and it something we haven’t done in Missouri since 1821,” Nixon said. “And it’s unnecessary for that particular solution.”

Nixon also said he had concerns about a provision that would no longer require unaccredited districts to pay transportation costs for transfer students. But he added that he’d give the bill a “good look” and make a quick decision.

“It’s a pressing public policy issue that I need to get to,” Nixon said.

Some of the bill’s supporters – including Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City – have been critical of Nixon for not working more closely with lawmakers on the issue. Chappelle-Nadal told reporters last week that for Nixon “to come about at the eleventh hour is not only a disgrace, but it also shows the lack of his leadership.”

When asked about that criticism – which has been percolating for years among legislators of both parties – Nixon said: “I’m there every day. I work a lot.”

“We got a lot done, especially on mental health this year,” said Nixon, specifically pointing to a proposal that will help construction a new mental health-care facility in Fulton. “But when they veer off course the way they did on the last day of the session and pass $490 million of tax cuts that aren’t paid for and don’t put a balanced budget on my desk, they can add too.”

'Entirely separate'

Nixon was referring to tax breaks passed on the last day of session. They ranged from incentives for data centers to tax exemptions for restaurants and farmers’ markets.

But after criticizing those bills, Nixon said he wasn’t being inconsistent for championing a much bigger incentive package to lure Boeing’s 777X to Missouri.

That package would have provided Boeing with around $1.7 billion in tax incentives if it built its assembly plant in Missouri. Some legislative critics contended the price tag was well over $2 billion, and amounted to corporate welfare.

When asked whether his criticism of the tax incentives chafed with his advocacy for the Boeing package, Nixon said it was “an entirely separate” situation.

“If [Boeing] made investments and created jobs, then we allowed them to keep a portion of the taxes that were earned after the construction project was over and after folks were working,” Nixon said. “That’s why we worked specifically within our programs in the Boeing deal that required job creation.”

“These things that have been passed don’t do that,” he added. “They just throw money at whomever at who was walking down the hall with a good lobbyist. And that is not the way to run the fiscal system of a state.”

Nixon added he was “going to focus over the next couple of weeks” to make sure “the cuts that we have to make to balance the budget and maintain our fiscal discipline are ones that reflect our values.”

Officials celebrate plant science center expansion

Meanwhile, Nixon joined a number of prominent officials – including St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley and former Washington University Chancellor William Danforth – to break ground on an expansion to the Danforth Plant Science Center. 

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.

school buses
Flickr

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.

Editor's Weekly: Keeping An Eye On Student Transfers

May 15, 2014
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.

The dome of the Missouri Capitol.
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 | 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.

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