ST. LOUIS COUNTY - Communities around the region's unaccredited school districts are watching Senate Bill 493 very closely.
Normandy spokesperson Daphne Dorsey tells us there are parts of the bill they like, and parts they don't like. She says their top priority is making sure whatever the bill looks like in its final form is good for the families and students who stayed.
Normandy School District has paid about $8 million to other districts for the more than 1,000 students who transferred this school year. Riverview Gardens has paid close to $8.5 million in tuition, and another $566,000 to bus the transfers to Kirkwood and Mehlville.
"Our main concern is that we need a tuition fix in order to help us out financially," said Daphne Dorsey.
Lawmakers will vote on Senate Bill 493 Thursday. It caps tuition at 90 percent of the receiving district's rate. School boards in those districts could vote to take 70-percent or less, in exchange for not counting transfers' test scores for five years.
"Where's the accountability to make sure one, that they're accountable for that child's learning, and two, that they're being held responsible for that child's learning as you look at the overall performance of that district?" asked Missouri NAACP Vice President Adolphus Pruitt.
Pruitt with the NAACP says that's not the answer.
Daphne Dorsey says they do agree with the part of the bill that requires a student to be in the district at least a semester before they're allowed to transfer on their dime.
"That's been one of our main concerns because we had a number of students who transferred into the Normandy School District specifically to transfer out and take advantage of the transfer law," she said.
One of the most controversial parts of the bill is allowing districts to vote on sending taxpayer dollars to fund transfers to private non-religious schools. There are none in Normandy's boundaries, and only one in Riverview Gardens: Storman Academy.
"You won't fix the formula for public schools. But yet at the same time, you're prepared to take away from those dollars and give it to private schools," Pruitt said. "That's a problem."
We spoke with a spokesman from Governor Nixon's office this afternoon who tells me the Governor is very much against the private school option in the bill, but he couldn't say whether Governor Nixon will veto it once it's on his desk.