Reactions split on KCPS transfer ruling

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Reactions are mixed after a judge handed down a ruling on the Kansas City Public Schools transfer policy, which said the money per student the unaccredited district was offering was not enough to cover the costs of transfers at the North Kansas City, Lee's Summit and Independence school districts.

Independence Schools Superintendent Dr. Jim Hinson told reporters on Thursday he was pleased with the judge's ruling.

But the feelings are very different in Raytown and Blue Springs, the two districts the judge decided could accept transfer students with money offered by KCPS.

Read more on the ruling:

Blue Springs School District released the following statement on Thursday:

The Circuit Court of Jackson County ruled today in the case of Blue Springs, Independence, Lee's Summit, North Kansas City and Raytown School Districts vs. the Kansas City, Missouri School District and the State of Missouri. The Court looked at each district on an individual basis. Because of that fact, the judge decided that the State of Missouri did not have a Hancock violation in regards to the Blue Springs School District. The Hancock amendment was passed in 1980 to protect school districts from additional requirements from the state without additional funding to pay for them. The judgment by the court was largely based on the lower per pupil costs in the Blue Springs School District compared to the other suburban school districts involved in the lawsuit. Ironically, trying to be the best stewards of our local taxpayer dollars was found to be a detriment given the Court's rationale in this case.

Undoubtedly the case will be appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court to join a similar case that is ongoing on the St. Louis side of the state.

Raytown Schools responded similarly:

The Raytown School District is saddened by Judge Powell's (August 16) ruling declaring that Mo. Rev. Stat § 167.131 is unconstitutional and invalid, as it does not recognize nor specifically outline the difference in per pupil expenditures as opposed to tuition. The split decision, excluding only some districts from receiving Kansas City Public School student transfers, further increases concern. Numbers of students who had indicated they might transfer to one of the three exempted districts might now indicate interest in the Raytown or Blue Springs districts, furthering the unaccounted for costs. Judge Powell stated in his ruling: "The costs associated with students transferring pursuant to Section 167.131 could vary year to year for KCPS and school districts enrolling transferring students. In fact, this Court's ruling could alter the projected number of students expected to transfer to eligible school districts, resulting in increased costs for Blue Springs R-IV District and Raytown C-2 District not contemplated by the court."

Superintendent Dr. Allan Markley said the district will not accept any students from an unaccredited school district without tuition being paid in full.

But Hinson in Independence has a different take on the ruling.

"For us, the taxpayers of the Independence School District, this simply means, by law, they cannot bare the burden of educating students. The tax burden of educating students from other school districts, because it's a state mandate, it's a requirement on the state of Missouri," Hinson said.

"We are really forgetting again, this conversation is really about kids. So, I think the question in the meantime is what happens to kids not only in our school district but for any school district that might be unaccredited at this point in time. May that remain our focus: this is really about kids even though, unfortunately, it does play out in court," he added.

Kansas City Public Schools released this statement:

A judge today provided some answers regarding the accreditation transfer process that will allow the Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS) to protect important resources needed to raise achievement, but further questions remain to be settled through the courts.

Jackson County Circuit Court Judge W. Brent Powell ruled today that laws governing the transfer of students from unaccredited school districts to school districts in Lee's Summit, Independence, and North Kansas City are unconstitutional as unfunded mandates. Conversely, Judge Powell ruled those laws are constitutional as applied to schools districts in Blue Springs and Raytown.

The immediate impact is KCPS will not be forced to pay large sums of taxpayer dollars above state funding to neighboring school districts as tuition for students seeking transfers to Lee's Summit, Independence, and North Kansas City. Transfers could be requested to Blue Springs and Raytown but even this portion

of the ruling is likely to be challenged in the courts after the judge also ruled that KCPS' tuition transfer policy does not violate the statute.

"The judge's ruling today protects the educational resources of more than 16,000 students and avoids a tragedy," said KCPS Superintendent R. Stephen Green. "Our students have a right to high-quality resources, and this ruling prevents these resources from leaving KCPS, its students, and its teachers. We look forward to continuing our march toward reaccreditation."

"Today's ruling helps clear up some gray areas regarding accreditation transfers, but it also leaves a cloudy path as KCPS moves forward," Green continued. "We anticipate legal challenges to Judge Powell's ruling that will provide further clarity on this issue. In the meantime, we will continue to focus on reaccreditation and student achievement."

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