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Court Upholds Law Allowing Transfers Out Of Kansas City School District

Sylvia Maria Gross
Troost Elementary School.

The Missouri Supreme Court has cleared the way for students to transfer out of the unaccredited Kansas City Public Schools. Starting 2014-2015, KCPS will be required to pay tuition and transportation costs for students who transfer to neighboring school districts.

Five Kansas City area districts had challenged the 1993 state law allowing the transfers. They argued it is an unfunded mandate. But the Supreme Court ruled that the law just shifted responsibility for educating students among school districts.

The same law went into effect last year in St. Louis, where thousands of students left two unaccredited school districts, bankrupting one of them.

Local school districts are now developing plans to allow for students to transfer in the 2014-15 school year. The law offers few specifics on how the transfers should happen, though the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has issued some guidelines

Kansas City Public School administrators say they’ll pay receiving districts $3500 per pupil. That’s the basic state allotment for educating a student. KCPS has offered to pay monthly, though many school districts require tuition from out-of-district students to be paid up front.

KCPS has also offered to pay transportation, but only to one of four districts: Independence, North Kansas City, Center and Raytown.

KCPS currently has about 15,000 students in kindergarten through twelfth grade. Superintendent Steven Green says he doesn’t know how many students will opt to transfer, but that it could be devastating for schools and communities. He called on DESE to grant the district provisional accreditation.

“We have waited patiently for action, keeping our focus solely on increasing student achievement,” Green says. “And we have been demonstrably successful in improving outcomes for our students.”

According to the Associated Press, transfers could cost the district $60 million to $150 million from a $268 million budget.

Kansas City mayor Sly James called for state legislators to change the school transfer law early in the session.

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