MO court upholds student transfer law in KC case - KCTV5

MO court upholds student transfer law in KC case

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JEFFERSON CITY, MO (KCTV/AP) -

The Missouri Supreme Court has again upheld a law requiring unaccredited school districts to pay for students who chose to attend elsewhere.

The court's unanimous decision Tuesday applies to the Kansas City School District and its suburban neighbors. A similar ruling earlier this year dealt with St. Louis area schools.

A 1993 Missouri law requires unaccredited school districts to cover the costs for students to attend nearby accredited schools.

Kansas City's school district has been unaccredited since 2012, but student transfers have been on hold because of the legal challenge.

Independence Public School District Superintendent Dale Herl says theirs is a growing school district with about 14,000 students kindergarten through 12th grade. Transfers from KCPS could add about 1,000 students to their district, which Herl said would present several challenges.

For one, class size would be affected. Average class size in Independence schools is between 18 and 29 students per class. Even with KCPS picking up the tab for the transfers, Herl says it could prove difficult in terms of building capacity. In fact, the district added two additional elementary schools within the last two years and he said the greatest negative impact would be on the KCPS students who transfer.

"Putting children on buses for 30 minutes to an hour, that's not good for anyone. And really to have a strong educational system, and a strong school, it really needs to revolve around the community," he said.

Herl went on to say the transfers would greatly undermine the progress KCPS Superintendent Stephen Green has made and it would also hurt students who are left behind.

Green says they are disappointed in Tuesday's ruling, but they will fully comply with the state law and cooperate with neighboring schools that may receive some current KCPS students.

"We are hopeful our students will stay with us and continue their journey," he said.

While a lot hinges on how many student decide to transfer out of the unaccredited district into one of the five others, Green says he isn't giving up on continuing to improve his district.

"I think overall our parents are happy with their teachers. They're happy with their child's school. They're not always happy with the district, but I think they'll think twice before they pull their child out of school and send them on a one to two hour bus ride. I hope that's the case," said Andrea Flinders, head of the local teachers union.

The district has been working hard over recent months to prove to the state board of education it deserves to be reaccredited and protect a stable learning environment for students.

"The constant threat of student transfers, the recent revelations of DESE and the incessant uncertainty for our families are the most present symptoms that we so desperately seek," Green said.

Green said given his district's current state of unaccreditation, the transfer law implications are what keeps him up at night.

Today he vowed to review all the district's options to protect the integrity of their schools and continue striving for increased achievement.

"This ruling, along with the inadequate transfer law has the potential to rip that [healthy, stable school in their neighborhood] away from thousands of urban students. This flies in the face of our community's crystal clear desire for stable neighborhoods and stable schools," he said.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, or DESE, released their own statement on the ruling, saying, "The Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education will do everything we can to support the Kansas City area school districts in complying with the transfer law. Our guidance document should serve as a starting point for helping educators and parents create a smooth process for student transfers: http://dese.mo.gov/documents/Transfer_Guidance.pdf. "

The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected an assertion that the student transfer law amounted to an unfunded mandate that violated the state constitution.

Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) and The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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