Court upholds school transfer funding law

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Missouri Supreme Court upheld a law Tuesday requiring unaccredited school districts to fund the transfer of its students who choose to attend neighboring districts.

The law, which applies to the unaccredited Kansas City School District, came as an expected but disappointing blow to a district facing mounting issues.

"This flies the face of our community's crystal clear desire for stable neighborhoods and stable schools. That stability that important ingredient is critical to effective teaching and learning," said Superintendent Dr. Stephen Green in a press conference Tuesday.

The Student Transfer Law has been in place in Missouri since 1993. After the Kansas City Public Schools District lost accreditation in 2012, the law was challenged by Blue Springs, Independence, Lee's Summit, North Kansas City and Raytown districts. The schools wanted the Kansas City Public School District to be responsible for covering more than the district originally offered to pay. 

The recent court ruling will make the district responsible for tuition and transportation costs for students who want to go elsewhere. But the law doesn't indicate how much the district will have to pay.  The State Department of Education will be responsible for putting forth guidelines that will clarify specific costs to the districts.

"We do not know how many students may opt to transfer and we do not know the cost of the student transfers.  All of that is still yet to be determined, "Green said.

"Families don't have to choose between living in Kansas City and sending their children to excellent schools. The two are not mutually exclusive evidenced by the fact that 15 different school districts exist within our city limits and each district has their own high-performing schools," Mayor James said in a statement Tuesday. "Every student deserves a quality school in their neighborhood. I urge the General Assembly to address this transfer issue holistically as soon as session convenes."

According to district officials, it would cost the district at least $10,000 to transfer a student. With about 16,000 students in the district, the bill could be pricey.

Neighboring districts hope crowded classrooms won't threaten their quality of education

"It would be very difficult for us," Independence Superintendent Dale Herl said. "Certainly if we have more students coming in, capacity limits can certainly be reached within our school district."

While area district leaders said they welcome any student into their classrooms, they want to make sure current students get a quality education.

"We will also make sure we protect the tax payers and students that are currently living in this school district so we don't lose any services that those students are now receiving," Raytown Superintendent Dr. Allan Markley said.

According to State Education guidelines, the earliest student could transfer is by fall of 2014.

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