Unaccredited School District Is in the Soup

     CLAYTON, Mo. (CN) - A day after an unaccredited school district filed a lawsuit challenging a state student transfer law, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education notified the district that it is not authorized to pay for the litigation.
     The Normandy School District sued Missouri, the Missouri State Board of Education and the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education along with 20 area school districts in St. Louis County Court on Wednesday.
     Normandy claims a law requiring unaccredited school districts to pay for tuition and transportation costs to send its students to other school districts is unconstitutional.
     Normandy, which is unaccredited, claims it has spent more than $8 million for tuition and transportation for approximately 1,000 students who chose to go to neighboring districts.
     The costs have led to the school district's financial demise. It filed the lawsuit one day after the state Board of Education voted to lapse Normandy on June 30. The district will then be known as the Normandy District Collaborative and will be directly run by the state.
     Normandy claims the law unlawfully drained millions of dollars from the district, which prevented Normand from providing an appropriate education to students, caused layoffs and school closings, undermined the district's ability to regain accreditation, caused the district's insolvency and will prevent it from operating.
     The law "also operates to transfer Normandy School District revenues, including local taxpayer revenues, without a vote of taxpayers to neighboring school districts in amounts far in excess of the receiving districts' actual costs to provide educational services to transferring pupils," the complaint states. "As a result, Normandy School District's funds and its taxpayers' revenues are being diverted outside the district to excessively subsidize other school districts."
     Even if Normandy has a case, it may not see the light of day.
     A letter from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education sent to Normandy on Thursday stated that the state will not approve any costs associated with the lawsuit. The state has had direct financial oversight over Normandy since February.
     "This action should be terminated to assure that no district funds are utilized to defray the associated costs," states the letter to Normandy Superintendent Ty McNichols. "The district did not notify the Department of the cost to file such a suit. This action violates the terms in which the local school board would remain in place through the end of the school year."
     The letter states that moving forward with the lawsuit requires written permission from the state education department.