Senator Kraus’ Capitol Report: Last month, the state of Missouri removed accreditation from the Kansas City Missouri School District (KCMSD). It is important to note that the KCMSD serves only 17,000 children, a small portion of the city as a whole. Other districts in the city, and those districts outside the city that serve city residents, are not affected.
State law requires that children in districts that are not accredited must be received by any school district in the same county or any neighboring county. This means that any school district in Jackson, Platte, Clay and Cass counties should prepare for the possibility of receiving KCMSD students who wish to transfer to their district.
The process for such transfers is still under discussion. State statutes do require that the recently unaccredited school district (KCMSD) pay for all tuition and transportation costs for the student. The tuition is calculated by using a per grade average for cost per pupil in the receiving district. Districts cannot refuse a student who wishes to transfer, but they do have the option of which school to assign the student.
St. Louis schools, and their surrounding districts, have already faced this situation. Because some districts refused to accept incoming students by saying they didn’t have room and because the St. Louis School District did not want to pay, a lawsuit was filed and a resulting verdict was decided. The Missouri Supreme Court, in the case of Turner vs. the Clayton School District, often referred to as the Turner Decision, decided in favor of students in the unaccredited district and upheld state statutes. The decision has been stayed while the case is headed back to circuit court; therefore, the verdict has not been implemented. A final decision is expected in January 2012.
More information about what happens when a school district becomes unaccredited can be found by clicking on this link, Frequently Asked Questions, or visiting http://www.dese.mo.govand looking up “unaccreditation.”
Local districts are already grappling with the effect of the KCMSD decision and the possibility they may face the same issues as the districts surrounding St. Louis. I have been in contact with members of the education community on all sides of the issue and I have found most everyone wants two things: an opportunity for a quality education for students in the KCMSD and protections for surrounding districts.
I will continue to meet with education leaders at all levels, from PTAs to teachers to administrators and elected officials. Legislation has been discussed in Jefferson City to better define a process and I am sure we will debate a solution during the 2012 session. Together, I am confident we will find a way to accomplish the two goals before us.