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Kansas City, Mo., Schools Ask Court to Hold Off on Student Transfer Law

By guest blogger Evie Blad.

The Kansas City, Mo., district will ask a court to halt the application of a school-transfer law, which has already scrambled finances, students, and staff in St. Louis-area districts, while it seeks the provisional accreditation necessary from the state.

The 1993 state law in question requires unaccredited districts to pay tuition and provide transportation for an unlimited number of students who choose to attend accredited districts in the same county or an adjacent one. The Missouri Supreme Court this week ruled that the law applies to the Kansas City district.

Kansas City's school board announced Thursday plans to the state, asking for an injunction that would halt application of the law while Missouri's state board of education considers a pending request to grant provisional accreditation to the district. The district lost its accreditation in 2012. It has argued that student performance has qualified it for provisional accreditation, despite arguments from state education leaders that the district needs to show another year of academic gains. The court halted required transfers while it heard arguments about the law.

In a statement about its newest legal action, posted on the district's website, the board said application of the transfer law threatened "certain chaos and disruption:"

"For the past 24 months, due to the stability KCPS has enjoyed, our scholars have experienced a surge in achievement the likes of which our community has not known in many years. The decision of the Supreme Court, when added to the decision of the State Board of Education not to confer the provisional accreditation our scholars earned, will create irreparable harm to the ongoing growth of their achievement. These circumstances, combined with the overwhelming outpouring of concern from KCPS parents, elected officials and community leaders, compel the Board to take actions protecting our scholars' growing achievement from harm."

The district's concerns about the possible transfers are likely fueled by watching the St. Louis-area districts, which were required to apply the law this school year after the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that the transfers did not constitute an unfunded mandate for the participating school systems. That decision triggered the transfer of thousands of students to transfer out of the unaccredited Normandy and Riverview Gardens districts in St. Louis County this fall, threatening bankruptcy in the school systems, Education Week reported:

"Normandy, which has an operating budget of $49 million, is slated to pay more than $14 million in tuition to external districts and transportation fees for departing students. Riverview Gardens will owe some $17 million to receiving districts, according to the Cooperating School Districts, a voluntary co-op in St. Louis and surrounding counties that helped coordinate the transfers."

 And school leaders in the St. Louis area warned taking in large numbers of students could also strain resources at receiving districts, creating a "domino effect" that causes them to lose their accreditation.

In its statement, the Kansas City board said it the "remains open to finding a nonlitigious remedy to the peril in which these circumstances place the achievement of our scholars."

 

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