© 2024 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Transfer numbers could spell bankruptcy for Normandy schools

File | St. Louis Public Radio

Normandy school officials say 637 students have signed up to transfer to other districts in the coming school year, far more than the number that officials have said could spell serious financial trouble for the district.

After Wednesday’s 4 p.m. deadline, Normandy said that 265 students who had never transferred to accredited districts before had signed up, to go along with the 372 students out of the 424 students who are transferring now. State education officials have said that if 530 students or more leave the district, the cost of their tuition and in some cases their transportation could cause Normandy to go broke.

The district said that transfer applications still need to be verified, to make sure the students who want to leave satisfy residency and other requirements, so it is too soon to tell what the financial impact of the numbers may mean. In a news release sent out late Wednesday, the district said it would have no further comment on the numbers until April 20 at the earliest.

In addition to the actual number of students who end up transferring, the district’s budget could also be affected by how much the receiving districts charge in tuition. That topic is one of many being debated in the Missouri General Assembly as the House and Senate try to come up with changes in the transfer law.

The effort got off to a quick start in both chambers this year after efforts to “fix” the transfer law ran into a veto by Gov. Jay Nixon last year. The primary reason he cited to reject the bill — a provision to allow public money to pay tuition at nonsectarian private schools — appears to be off the table this year.

Still in the mix are attempts to limit how much unaccredited school districts — at this point, only Normandy and Riverview Gardens – would have to pay to the districts who receive transfer students.

A proposal by Rep. Clem Smith, D-Velda Village Hills, to cap tuition was voted down in the House. But other provisions to reduce tuition are still being debated, including one that would let receiving districts charge 70 percent of their normal amount in exchange for not counting the test scores of transfer students in district evaluations for five years.

Also at issue are the costs of the separate bills that have passed the House and Senate. A fiscal note on the Senate bill topped $200 million, causing it to stall in the House. The House bill would cost far less, an estimated $13 million, but some Senate Republicans are questioning whether that figure is too low.

Normandy officials have urged lawmakers to both limit tuition and scrap any provision that would not count the test scores of transfer students for five years. The statement from the district on Wednesday concluded: “We remain confident the Missouri legislature will continue to work toward a resolution.”

Originally, the deadline to apply to transfer out of Normandy for the 2015-16 school year was Feb. 1. But after that date had passed, St. Louis County Circuit Judge Michael Burton ruled that the state school board had improperly voted to reclassify Normandy as accredited. He changed the district’s status to unaccredited, prompting the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to extend the deadline to April 1.

Follow Dale Singer on Twitter: @dalesinger

Dale Singer began his career in professional journalism in 1969 by talking his way into a summer vacation replacement job at the now-defunct United Press International bureau in St. Louis; he later joined UPI full-time in 1972. Eight years later, he moved to the Post-Dispatch, where for the next 28-plus years he was a business reporter and editor, a Metro reporter specializing in education, assistant editor of the Editorial Page for 10 years and finally news editor of the newspaper's website. In September of 2008, he joined the staff of the Beacon, where he reported primarily on education. In addition to practicing journalism, Dale has been an adjunct professor at University College at Washington U. He and his wife live in west St. Louis County with their spoiled Bichon, Teddy. They have two adult daughters, who have followed them into the word business as a communications manager and a website editor, and three grandchildren. Dale reported for St. Louis Public Radio from 2013 to 2016.