- Associated Press - Saturday, June 14, 2014

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A troubled St. Louis-area school district is seeking a temporary restraining order against the Missouri Education Department, which won’t let it pay its legal fees in a fight over the state’s student transfer law.

A motion filed Friday in St. Louis County Circuit Court by attorneys representing the Normandy School District also seeks to prevent the state from withholding more than $2 million the district hasn’t paid to area districts for the tuition of students who transferred out of Normandy, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (https://bit.ly/TWiwuB ) reported.

It also attempts to stop the Missouri Board of Education from lapsing the district on June 30 and restarting it the next day as a state-run school system renamed the Normandy Schools Collaborative.

The litigation is part of a legal battle between Normandy, which has been unaccredited since the start of 2013, and the education department over the district’s future and the constitutionality of a state transfer law the district says is bankrupting it.

The state board is scheduled to meet Monday in Jefferson City to approve fundamentals such as budget and key staff that the new system will need to get started July 1.

A Missouri Supreme Court ruling in June 2013 upheld the school transfer law, which requires unaccredited districts to pay the costs of transferring students. That prompted roughly 1,000 children to leave Normandy to attend higher-performing schools, costing the school district about $10 million in tuition and transportation expenses that led to its near-insolvency.

The lawsuit accuses the 20 area school districts that took in Normandy students of charging inflated tuition rates exceeding the actual costs of educating the children.

The education department had assured receiving districts it would withhold state money from Normandy if the district did not pay tuition expenses.

The Normandy School Board has yet to pay tuition for April, May and June. Friday’s motion argues the payment obligations “are unlawful and unconstitutional, have devastated and will further devastate the Normandy School District’s finances.”

The education department has been in control of Normandy’s finances since February. In a letter last month, the department said the district was not authorized to spend money on the lawsuit because the state never approved it.

Education department spokeswoman Nancy Bowles said the latest motion will be referred to the attorney general’s office.

Normandy encompasses 24 municipalities and unincorporated areas of St. Louis County. It has about 3,000 students, of whom about 98 percent are black.

The motion for the restraining order is scheduled to go before Judge Steven Goldman on June 20.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, https://www.stltoday.com

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