R-7 schools still not accepting transfer students from Kansas City

tporter@lsjournal.comOctober 25, 2013 

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    Number of school districts a circuit judge ruled in favor of after after a lawsuit was filed by five suburban Kansas City school districts claiming state law violations.

The recent decision by the Missouri State Board of Education to take no action on a request from Kansas City Public Schools for provisional accreditation will have no immediate effect on the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District.

The State Board of Education classified KCPS as unaccredited in 2012. State law stipulates that neighboring school districts must accept transfer students from unaccredited districts with the unaccredited district providing the cost of tuition and transportation.

Five suburban Kansas City school districts, including R-7, sued the state and other entities last year claiming the law was an unfunded mandate and a violation of the Hancock Amendment.

That case is now in the hands of the Missouri Supreme Court and no transfers have taken place since a circuit judge ruled in favor of three of the suburban districts, the R-7 district among them.

The state Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case later this year or early next year, however the state board’s decision Oct. 22 means that KCPS will remain unaccredited.

“The taxpayers of R-7 have a judgment against the state indicating that the student transfer statute is an unfunded mandate in violation of the Hancock Amendment to the Missouri Constitution,” said Duane Martin, an attorney speaking on behalf of the R-7 district. “This judgment has been appealed by the state Attorney General to the Missouri Supreme Court. We are currently awaiting a decision from the court. The state board’s decision does not impact the status quo. KCPS has been unaccredited since January 1, 2012 and with today’s decision, it will remain unaccredited.”

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education notified the Kansas City school district earlier this month that it would not recommend a change in accreditation to the State Board of Education at its October meeting.

At the September State Board of Education meeting, Steve Green, Kansas City Public Schools superintendent, requested that the department recommend changing the district’s accreditation and that the State Board classify the district as provisionally accredited.

“We have carefully considered the district’s request and its progress this year, but we want to ensure that progress is sustainable,” said Peter Herschend, president of the State Board of Education. “We owe it to the children to use the accountability system to accurately reflect the district’s performance.”

This summer the state Supreme Court ruled the transfer law constitutional in a case involving unaccredited school districts in the St. Louis area.

More than 2,600 students transferred out of the Normandy and Riverview Gardens school districts after they were stripped of their accreditation. According to media reports, Normandy officials have said they’ll need an additional $6.8 million in state funds to avoid going bankrupt before the end of the school year and Riverview Gardens could run out of money next year.

Reports indicate that the cost to cover transfers in the Kansas City area could run as high as $120 million of the KCPS’s $238 million budget.

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