Students Flock to Better Education, Low-Performing School Doesn’t Foot Bill

The Normandy School Board in Missouri has seen students flee from its lackluster campus, and now has decided not to pay the bill for students who have transferred into higher performing schools. In a 3-2 vote, the board rejected paying the costs for hundreds of students who will attend school elsewhere this year.

As a result of the board’s decision not to payfor for transfer costs, 14 districts will not receive about $1.3 million that they are due. The board also approved a plan to close an elementary school and lay off 103 employees, translating into a savings for the district of more than $3 million this year, according to Margaret Gillerma and Elisa Crouch of St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

In September, the district paid more than $424,000 for 449 Normandy students who transferred to Francis Howell in St. Charles County, where Normandy selected to transport students to by bus and has the largest number of transfer students.

“I’ve been wrestling with this since day one. I could no longer in good conscience support a process that would not allow us — our students — to have the kind of access to education that is afforded to other districts,” said Board President William Humphrey, who favored the withholding of the funds. “All I’ve asked for is a fair playing field for our students.”

Board members Terry Artis and Sheila Williams supported the move and about 100 people at Thursday night board meeting applauded the decision. According to school officials, the tuition and transportation costs for the transfer students could take up as much as 30% of the district’s resources. The tuition cost for the school year has been projected to be as high as $15 million.

Enrollment figures point to a drop of about 1,000 students in Normandy this year, the first in which students to be allowed to transfer at the district’s expense.

Additionally, the board plans voted to lay off 103 workers, including 71 teachers, 27 support staffers and five building administrators. The cuts and the school closing will be effective December 20th.

Board member Henry Watts, who was appointed to the board this year to fill a vacancy, said about the cutback plan: “I don’t like it, but we have to do something. The bottom line is we have to keep Normandy solvent.”

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said that it would withhold state education funds to either Normandy or Riverview Gardens, which are required to pay for transfer students, if they were more than two months behind in tuition bills. The department would use those funds to pay the transfer obligations.

After the bill was rejected, Francis Howell Chief Financial Officer Kevin Supple said he expected that the state education agency would step in. “It’s going to delay our payment … but I believe we will be made whole,” Supple said.

Supple also said that Francis Howell has built its budget based on the assumption that it may not receive payments.