The Lee’s Summit R-7 School District may see an influx of transfer students from Kansas City Public Schools next school year after the Missouri Supreme Court upheld a state law that allows students to transfer out of unaccredited school districts.
The ruling, which came down Dec. 10, upheld a state law that allows students in unaccredited school districts to transfer to accredited schools at no expense to their families. The law stipulates that the failing district – Kansas City Public Schools in this case – must pay tuition and transportation costs for students who transfer to neighboring districts.
The neighboring schools districts – R-7, Blue Springs, Independence, North Kansas City and Raytown – appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court after Jackson County Circuit Judge W. Brent Powell ruled last August that the transfer law is an unfunded mandate that violated the Hancock Amendment of the Missouri Constitution for three of the five school districts that had sued the state to block the law.
The Hancock Amendment prohibits the state from imposing new mandates upon political subdivisions – including school districts – without full state financing. A violation of the amendment had been at the forefront of the suburban KC school districts’ challenge.
Powell ruled in favor of taxpayers representing the Lee’s Summit, Independence and North Kansas City school districts, agreeing that financial officers demonstrated the law would bring unfunded costs and ruled against school districts in Blue Springs and Raytown.
However, Dec. 10’s ruling from the Missouri Supreme Court overturned the judgments in favor of Lee’s Summit, Independence and North Kansas City, and affirmed the judgments against Blue Springs and Raytown.
Duane Martin, an attorney representing the suburban districts, could not be reached Dec. 10 before the Journal went to press, but is on record having said that until the legal issues were resolved, Lee’s Summit R-7 and the other school districts would not be admitting students.
With the latest ruling, several thousand students from KCPS are expected to transfer to suburban school districts beginning in the 2014-15 school year.
This past 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 current school year and Riverview Gardens could run out of money next year.
Reports also indicate that the cost to cover transfers in the Kansas City area could run as high as $120 million of the KCPS’s annual $238 million budget.