ST. LOUIS — A failing St. Louis County school district has agreed to pay a six-figure tuition bill it previously rejected in order to cover the costs of sending about 1,000 of its students to schools in better-performing districts.
The school board for the unaccredited Normandy district voted Wednesday night to reverse an earlier decision and pay the money owed to 17 accredited districts where Normandy students have transferred this fall. The total bill was $1.37 million.
Normandy students and teachers asked the school board to reconsider planned cuts of more than $3 million that would close an elementary school mid-year and eliminate more than 100 jobs, mostly teaching positions, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (bit.ly/1cvUmda) reported.
The district has been unaccredited since January, but its troubles stretch back nearly two decades. A "provisional" label was first given in 1996, and renewed at least four times. The challenges only increased in 2010 once Normandy absorbed students from the failed school district in neighboring Wellston.
On Monday, new superintendent Tyrone McNichols spelled out a district recovery plan to state education commissioner Chris Nicastro and other Department of Elementary and Secondary Education officials at a public hearing.
The district could face bankruptcy as it struggles to pay the estimated $15 million in transfer expenses owed under a state law that requires low-performing districts to subsidize displaced students' tuition and transportation costs. The mass transfers came after the Missouri Supreme Court upheld that law in a summer ruling.
Another unaccredited school district in the county, Riverview Gardens, has proposed $3 million worth of cuts to meet its financial obligations to the receiving districts but doesn't expect to fire teachers.
The two districts' struggles are being watched closely across the state, especially in the unaccredited Kansas City district, where a pending lawsuit has put transfers on hold for now.
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com