Maintaining the Education Status Quo
Today it was announced that many St. Louis area school districts have agreed to accept a lower tuition rate for students transferring from the Normandy and Riverview Gardens school districts. Jessica Boch of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes:
A significant number” of districts have agreed to reduce the tuition costs for transfer students to about $7,250, said Don Senti, executive director of EducationPlus, an organization of area school districts that has coordinated the transfer process for the past two years. That is the same amount most districts charge St. Louis Public Schools for transfer students under the voluntary desegregation program. In the past, tuition rates have ranged from $20,768 in Clayton to a low of $7,927 in Mehlville.
I am very pleased that the school districts have decided to take this step. Actually, I’ve been saying this action was possible all along. Back in January 2014 I wrote:
Many have lamented that the inter-district transfer law, which allows students to transfer from unaccredited public school districts to nearby accredited districts, may bankrupt failing districts. Normandy and Riverview Gardens, the two unaccredited districts currently allowing students to transfer, are already seeing financial hardship, and reports indicate that Normandy could be bankrupt by the end of the school year. This has occurred because the districts are paying tuition rates that are often in excess of what the districts spend on their own students. This has led some to clamor for a set tuition rate. In a recent position paper by the Cooperating School Districts of Greater St. Louis, area school superintendents stated, “If transfers are made between school districts then a regional tuition rate should be determined.” The interesting thing is that nothing is stopping area school districts from charging a lower tuition rate now. Each district, with a vote of its school board, could decide to set a lower, consistent tuition rate. To date, none of them have. Instead, school leaders are asking for more state government action. This is the very problem that plagues our society in so many regards; instead of taking initiative and fixing a problem ourselves, we allow or we seek greater government involvement. The next time you hear a school leader complain about the transfer situation and how it may bankrupt unaccredited schools, ask him or her what his or her district is doing to help. Are these leaders taking action locally, or are they requesting a solution from Jefferson City?
Eighteen months ago school leaders scoffed at my idea. They wanted a legislative fix. They wanted to stop the transfer program. What changed? Now, area school leaders are acting to stop a legislative fix. The current bill sitting before the governor would improve Missouri’s charter public school law and allow for broader establishment of virtual schools. Eighteen months ago, the education establishment rejected the idea of lowering tuition because they wanted the legislature to maintain the status quo. Today, the education establishment welcomes the idea of lowering the tuition because they want to avoid the legislative fix and maintain the status quo.