When area students return from winter break next week, they may find some new students in their classes, but only if those students’ families can afford to pay tuition.
Yesterday, a Clay County circuit court judge ruled that students from the Kansas City, Missouri School District — which loses its accreditation New Years Day — may transfer to accredited schools in their own and neighboring counties. The judge also allowed Center School District to join the lawsuit, which was filed by five other local districts last week. Although the judge did not allow the temporary restraining order, the lawsuit is still underway.
Faced with loss of accreditation, on December 21 the Kansas City, Missouri Board of Education approved a policy governing the transfer of Kansas City, Missouri students to accredited schools. Among other specifications, only students who have been enrolled for at least two semesters will be eligible for transfers. In addition, the policy states the district intends to pay transportation costs only for students transferring to four districts: Center, Independence, North Kansas City and Raytown. Two days after the board approved this policy, five neighboring districts filed suit in the Clay County Circuit Court and asked for a temporary injunction preventing the transfer of students.
According to Missouri statute, students from unaccredited districts have the right to transfer to those that are accredited. However, a lawsuit called Turner v. Clayton that might change this law is pending in state court, and a decision is not expected until at least March. There also has been talk that the Missouri General Assembly, after it reconvenes next week, may pass legislation that would address the issue of transfers from unaccredited districts. In the meantime, there is little judicial or legislative guidance for districts faced with the very real possibility transfers.
When families arrive in neighboring districts next week seeking transfers, they most likely will be turned away unless they can pay a year’s worth of tuition up front, which could amount to $10,000 or more. Although the Kansas City, Missouri policy says that district will pay tuition on a monthly basis for transferring students, most other school boards have policies in place stating they will only accept students who pay tuition in full in advance. Another issue is the fact that transfers would be beginning in the middle of the school year, which means districts will not have the opportunity to prepare classroom space and teaching staff to accommodate an influx of new students.
On the Friday before Christmas Eve, administrators of five local districts likely to receive transfer requests filed a petition asking the Circuit Court of Jackson County to delay student transfers until these issues could be worked out. The title of the suit is Blue Springs R-IV School District et al. v. School District of Kansas City, case number 1116-CV34463. Judge W. Brent Powell is overseeing the case. In addition to Center, which Judge Powell recently allowed to join the lawsuit, the five other districts suing Kansas City, Missouri are the Blue Springs, Independence, Lee’s Summit, North Kansas City and Raytown school districts.
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