The Missouri State Board of Education moved ahead Monday with policies limiting student transfers from the struggling Normandy School District in St. Louis County with an eye toward controlling costs.
Students who stayed in the Normandy School District during the most recent school year could not transfer in the future to nearby districts, and students who transferred in the most recent academic year would return to Normandy if they did not spend at least one semester in Normandy the previous year. That affects 131 students, Missouri education officials estimate.
Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro said students eligible to transfer could do that, so long as the receiving district agrees to accept a lower tuition payment. She said there has been no indication at this point that districts would not do that.
Student transfer policies have received significant attention in the Kansas City area, because the Kansas City Public Schools also is unaccredited. A Missouri law requires unaccredited districts to pay for students who want to attend other schools.
Lawmakers passed a bill revising the transfer law, but Gov. Jay Nixon has said he will veto it. The Legislature meets in September to consider veto overrides.
Decisions on the Normandy transfers came as Missouri education officials met to determine details for managing that district, which encompasses 24 municipalities and unincorporated areas of St. Louis County and has been unaccredited since the start of 2013.
Education officials say more than 930 students transferred from Normandy this year, and the financial strain prompted state government to approve extra funding to ensure the district made it through the current academic year.
The State Board of Education decided last month to dissolve the Normandy School District at the end of June and replace it with the Normandy Schools Collaborative. The collaborative will be led by a Joint Executive Governing Board chosen by state education officials.
Normandy has gone to court in an attempt to stop the dissolution of the district.
Among the issues that state education officials faced was how to classify the Normandy collaborative.
The state board voted Monday to classify the collaborative as a state oversight district instead of as unaccredited. That decision will be reviewed annually. By not making the Normandy collaborative unaccredited like the district it is replacing, officials could limit student transfers.
Board President Peter Herschend said that if the state did nothing, Normandy would run out of money and cease to exist.
“At that point, the State Board of Education would have no option but to disperse the students of the Normandy district to those surrounding districts,” he said.
Two board members favored a student transfer policy allowing students who transferred this year to remain – even if they never enrolled in Normandy.
Education advocacy group StudentsFirst Missouri criticized the limits on transfers.
“The state board decided to take away the guarantee of better educational opportunities for students trapped in failing schools,” said Kit Crancer, the organization’s state director.
The state board also decided to retain Normandy Superintendent Ty McNichols.