On Friday, a St. Louis County Circuit Court ruled that the children who were named as plaintiffs in a suit against the state and three area school districts would be allowed to re-enroll in the schools they had transferred to at the beginning of last school year.
Elisa Crouch and Jessica Bock of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch report that the three school districts, Pattonville, Ritenour, and Francis Howell, must immediately allow these children back into their schools.
Judge Michael Burton asserted that the students, who were previously enrolled in the Normandy district, like every other student in this community, have a right to a decent education. This means, potentially, that 500 students from the Normandy district could be allowed to re-enroll in the schools to which they transferred last year.
The transfer law was upheld by the Missouri Supreme Court in June 2013; was modified in February 2014; was threatened with a veto by Governor Jay Nixon in May 2014; and headed back to court when the Normandy parents sued to keep their students in accredited schools.
The transfer law says that any student in unaccredited districts has the right to transfer to nearby accredited districts and have tuition costs and transportation costs paid by the unaccredited district.
The Normandy district, though unaccredited, was financially sound when school began last year, but the tuition and transportation costs for the students who had transferred out of the district began to take their toll just a few months after school started. The cost was $1.5 million, and Normandy’s 3,000 remaining students were left with depleted resources.
One elementary school closed, 104 staff members were laid off, and the legislature gave the district $1.5 million just to keep the schools afloat. Judge Burton weighed in on the issue:
“…the direct and immediate harm in preventing the student plaintiffs from transferring to accredited schools outweighs any speculative financial harm to the Normandy Schools Collaborative.”
Schools have opened and Normandy Schools Collaborative becomes the first school in the state to be under direct state oversight. There will be many new teachers and the school will be reporting to the Missouri Board of Education.
“The State Board took action in Normandy after hearing from hundreds of Normandy residents, parents and students asking for Normandy schools to remain open,” it stated. “The community wants high quality schools in their neighborhoods, and the Department was prepared to do the hard work to help them achieve that goal.”
At this point, only the children included in the lawsuit are being allowed to return to their accredited schools. But the attorney for the parents, Joshua Schindler, said the decision should open the doors to all students.
“No one can read this order as anything other than the state and districts should allow all kids to transfer,” he said.
St. Louis is not the only city with problems of accreditation. Kansas City Public Schools district is also not accredited and will be supporting students who transfer to accredited schools this school year. At this time, only 23 students have applied to leave. Legislators have included in the revision of the transfer law a limited amount of non religious private school transfers, writes Joe Robertson reporting for The Kansas City Star.