School Transfer: An Expensive Law for Struggling Schools

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School Transfer: An Expensive Law for Struggling Schools


Missouri’s School Transfer Law allows students who live in an unaccredited Missouri school district to attend school in an accredited district. When students transfer under the law, their home district (the failing district) is required to pay for their transportation to and tuition for the accredited school they’ll attend. This is an expensive an unsustainable solution for struggling schools.

An Expensive Solution
School transfers are expensive for the unaccredited district. In 2013, when both the Normandy and Riverview Gardens in St. Louis County were deemed unaccredited, more than 2,000 students transferred.

While state lawmakers have proposed changes to the School Transfer Law, the law — in its current form — is an unsustainable one for unaccredited districts. Tuition alone cost between $7,000 and $21,000 per student for Normandy and Riverview Gardens. That means that the two districts spent more than $14 million just on tuition — an expense that threatened to send Normandy into bankruptcy. (Source)

Learn More: Riverview Gardens Struggling as Result of School Transfers

An Unsustainable Solution
While the school transfer law helps the individual students who transfer out of struggling schools into successful ones, the transfer law doesn’t solve the larger problems facing failing schools. In fact, it just drains money away from schools that are already having a hard time maintaining infrastructure, providing students with quality resources, and hiring and retaining good teachers.

This 2014 news story on opened by saying that Normandy School District was “buckling under the financial weight of Missouri’s school transfer law.”

More recently, Normandy estimated that if more than 530 students transfer to accredited districts, “the cost of their tuition and in some cases their transportation could cause Normandy to go broke.” (Source)

Selling Assets to Stay Afloat
The sale of unused school district property is one of Normandy’s only saving graces. Beyond Housing, a nonprofit organization purchased seven empty schools and an early childhood center from Normandy last year, giving it a brief influx of funds.

Profits from those sales have helped Normandy to remain operational, but how much longer can the district survive on this trajectory? How can lawmakers stand by while thousands of St. Louis public school students risk losing their local public school district entirely?

Selling off assets and paying to send students to accredited schools isn’t a sustainable solution for Normandy, and it won’t be a strong solution for other Missouri schools that face lost accreditation in future years, either.

Students Deserve a Quality Education at Home
Missouri’s public school students deserve a high quality education in their own local public schools. The school transfer law helps some of the students in each unaccredited district, but for every student the law helps right now, it harms dozen more in the long run.

As said, “the situation gives opportunity to about 430 Normandy children now in higher performing schools, but at the expense of the 3,500 who stayed.”

That’s the risk of the school transfer law: its unreasonably expensive for local districts, and as a result, it’s not a sustainable way for our legislature to address lost accreditation. Struggling schools need to be made stronger by education policy. Instead, our state’s school transfer law is threatening to run them into the ground.

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