Missouri lawmakers consider transfer law changes - KCTV5

Missouri lawmakers consider transfer law changes

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Missouri Sen. Paul LeVota, D-Independence Missouri Sen. Paul LeVota, D-Independence

As parents look to move their children from the unaccredited Kansas City School District, state lawmakers are looking at changes to affect those transfers.

The Missouri Supreme Court in late December cleared the way for transfers from unaccredited districts to better districts in surrounding communities. The transfers must come at the cost of unaccredited districts. In addition to Kansas City Public Schools, the Normandy and Riverview Gardens districts in St. Louis County are also unaccredited.

Some believe the transfer law could bankrupt districts and the influx of students create learning disruptions in the surrounding districts. The Missouri General Assembly is expected to take up a number of bills related to the transfer issue.

Some lawmakers want to allow accredited districts to open and operate charter schools in an unaccredited districts.

Currently, universities are the primary sponsors of charter schools in the Kansas City area.

Some want to have schools accredited rather than just districts. For example, Lincoln College Preparatory Academy in the KCPS district is considered the district's crown jewel and would do well among a state system for grading schools.

Sen. Gina Walsh, a Democrat from St. Louis County, supports accrediting schools rather than just districts.

"Nobody wants to buy a home in a district that can't educate the kids there. We need to fix it," she said. "This is the beginning. This opens the door. If we can get some things initiated, maybe we can start to solve this problem."

Sen. Paul LeVota, D-Independence, wants to allow districts to close its doors to transfers when there are space limitations.

"My bill asks each school board to set class ratio guidelines and turn it into the Department of Education," he said. "And they would not be able to accept over that class ratio. It's a very simple fix for the issue that is not only facing the Kansas City area but is facing the St. Louis area."

Lawmakers will also look at setting caps on tuition costs to avoid bankrupting an unaccredited district losing students to surrounding districts.

LeVota said the Supreme Court's transfer ruling adds too much instability "to how we are educating our kids and we need to add some clarity to the law on how those transfers will be handled."

The Raytown School District expects to receive transfers from Kansas City. Superintendent Allan Markley supports Walsh's proposal to accredit schools, not districts.

"Let's not just throw the baby out with the bath water. There are a lot of good schools in Kansas City, MO. We wouldn't be having these discussions if they were given provisional accreditation, which they earned this past fall," he said. "Let those students transfer within that district."

KCPS officials argued that improved test scores in 2013 earned them provisional accreditation. The state education board denied the request, saying improved student achievement had not been sustained over a period of time.

Markley maintains the current transfer law is unsustainable and will leave unaccredited districts financially insolvent.

"The school district is going bankrupt and having to pay tuition to other schools," he said.

He said the state will expect the students left behind "to get better without the money for them to get better."

Lawmakers are in session until May so a resolution could be months away.

KCTV5's Heather Staggers contributed to this report.

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