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St. Louis, MO (KTRS) - Missouri House members began hearings today on how the state deals with failing school districts.
A bill passed by the Senate in February calls for allowing students enrolled in struggling schools to transfer to a better one within their home district. Only if students could not get into a better school in their home district, would they be allowed to transfer to another district. In those cases the unaccredited district would pay for some of the tuition.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A group of Missouri school superintendents has developed an alternative to a state law allowing students to transfer from unaccredited to accredited districts.
The Kansas City Star reports that under the plan, students in struggling districts could transfer to better-performing schools in their home districts. And after five years of failure, districts could be dissolved and distributed to accredited districts.
Twenty leaders from around Missouri drafted the school-improvement plan and provided it to The Star on Monday. The draft says the existing transfer law "is not in the best interest of all students and will not lead to improvement of unaccredited districts."
A spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education says Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro hasn't yet had a chance to review the proposal.
Officials with the Normandy and Riverview Gardens school districts are hoping they can talk parents into keeping their kids enrolled as they try to rebuild the failing districts.
About 1,000 people gathered Monday night to listen to improvement plans from both districts' superintendents at a meeting at Shalom Church City of Peace in Florissant. Both men took over leadership of their districts on July 1.
So far, more than 1,300 students have applied to transfer out of the unaccredited districts. Both superintendents admit that will hurt the districts financially.
Riverview superintendent Scott Spurgeon said, "Any student, even one child that wants to leave our district, certainly would have a financial impact on us."
"I don't think it will bankrupt us, but it might put us in financial distress," Normandy Superintendent Ty McNichols said.
Superintendents of Jennings, Hazelwood and Ferguson-Florissant school districts attended the meeting to show support for those charged with rebuilding the failing districts. But also say they'll welcome any students who chose to transfer.
The transfer application deadline is August 1.
The Francis Howell school board will meet Thursday night to hammer out the nuts and bolts of accepting transfer students from the failing Normandy school district. The board will vote on issues including class size limits, tuition and a payment schedule.
District officials want average class sizes to remain at or below desirable levels outlined by the state department of education. At that level, the district would have room for about 600 transfer students. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that as of Wednesday, 196 students had applied to transfer into the district.
The district is also expected to approve a tuition rate of $11,034 per student, enough to allow them to hire a part time administrator to answer parents' questions, and assist in placing transfer students from Normandy.
Normandy students have until August 1 to file transfer applications. Class begins in Francis Howell schools on August 8.
Many parents in the Francis Howell School District say they're concerned about the impact of students from the unaccredited Normandy District transferring to their schools. Several sounded off at a town hall meeting Thursday night at Howell Central High School in Cottleville.
Some expresses concerns about resources being channeled to transferring students who are academically behind. Other's were concerned that about violence that may come to Francis Howell from Normandy, a district that has struggled with violence in its schools.
Francis Howell superintendent Dr. Pam Sloan spoke openly about her opposition to the transfers, saying that busing kids to a new district isn't the way to fix a failing one.
But not everyone in the district is so concerned. Francis Howell senior class president Eric Lee cautioned the crowd not to make assumptions about the students transferring in from Normandy. Lee said it's not right to assume the kids who choose to transfer are going to cause problems.
District officials won't know until August 2nd how many Normandy students plan to transfer.
Normandy School District officials will meet with parents Tuesday to answer their questions after announcing that the unaccredited district will pay to bus students to schools in the Francis Howell District in St. Charles beginning this fall.
The announcement comes on the heels of a Supreme Court ruling allowing students attending unaccredited districts to transfer to high performing schools.
All Normandy students in grades K-12 can participate in the transfer program at the district's expense. Parents can begin the transfer process July 9th at Normandy School District headquarters.
Tuesday's meeting with parents begins at 3 p.m. at the Normandy District offices.
The bill given initial approval Tuesday night is aimed mainly at the Kansas City School District, which lost its accreditation in January 2012.
Under current law, Missouri officials must wait until at least June 30, 2014, before intervening in the Kansas City district.
The Senate legislation would let the state intervene immediately after a district loses its accreditation. The state Board of Education could prescribe conditions under which the existing local school board could continue to oversee the school, or it could set up an alternative governing structure.
Those alternatives could include creating a special administrative board, merging the district with neighboring ones or splitting the district into several new ones.