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Riverview Gardens Struggling as Result of School Transfers

“Everything we need to change this district is in this district,”
-Riverview Gardens Superintendent Scott Spurgeon in the St. Louis Beacon (source)

The Riverview Gardens is one of three districts in Missouri that is currently unaccredited, and it is facing significant financial strains as a result of Missouri’s school transfer law.

The law, which was upheld by the Missouri Supreme Court in June of this year, allows students in unaccredited school districts to attend nearby accredited schools. These school transfers help students in the short term, but the solutions aren’t sustainable. The state law is having devastating financial effects on unaccredited school districts.

2,200 (approximately 20%) of the district’s students have chosen to transfer to accredited area schools (source). The cost of tuition and transportation for those students — a cost incurred by Riverview Gardens — is around $15.1 million dollars. The situation could force Riverview Gardens into bankruptcy before the end of the 2014-15 school year.

Riverview Gardens is cutting budgets in order to pay tuition and transportation of transfer students, but it hasn’t given up on earing back its own accreditation. In fact, reaccreditation has been new superintendent Scott Spurgeon’s top priority since taking leadership of the district in July (source).

“Our job as educator is to provide the highest level of instruction for our students in the classroom. That's our daily mission, and one of the challenges is going to be providing appropriate resources, training and relationship-building to make sure teachers are equipped to do what they have to do in the classroom," said Spurgen in a recent St. Louis Beacon article.

Spurgeon is leading the district toward budget cuts that might lessen the risk of bankruptcy — or at least delay the risk a little longer — while simultaneously putting a plan in place to improve its score on the state’s Annual Performance Reviews (APRs). Spurgeon’s goals include improving attendance rates and academic performance on the next APR by enough points to earn back the district’s accreditation — at least provisionally.

If the district can do that, millions of dollars currently being diverted to transportation and tuition expense can be redirected to educating students in their home district, and the district can refocus its energies on educational quality instead of on staying afloat financially.

Learn more about APRs in this Missouri Parent post on the Missouri School Improvement Plan, and learn more here about the proposal educational leaders have made to the state as an alternative to the costly school transfer law.

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