Court Order Regarding Transfers Creates Uncertainty

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A court ruling on the transfer of students out of the now-unaccredited Kansas City, Missouri School District to neighboring school districts has created more questions than answers for district administrators and parents alike.

State law allows students to transfer out of unaccredited districts to neighboring school districts, but five districts went to court, saying  the transfers from Kansas City would impose an unconstitutional and illegal unfunded mandate.

Related: School Districts Analyze, Then Respond to Court Ruling

The Missouri Constitution says the state has to fund the mandates it imposes, but a Jackson County judge found that in three of the five districts involved in the suit student transfers from Kansas City would cost more than state law would provide.

Under the ruling, Independence, Lee's Summit, and North Kansas City school districts would not  have to accept those transfers. But the judge ruled that the Raytown and Blue Springs districts could afford to absorb the additional students.

A statement from the Blue Springs District says, "Ironically, trying to be the best stewards of our local taxpayer dollars was found to be a detriment given the Court's rationale in this case."

On the other hand, Independence Superintendent Jim Hinson says that he is pleased his district won't be forced to take on transfer students.

"The judge for us in Independence reaffirmed the decision that we thougth that he should make based upon the facts," Hinson said.

The decision is expected to be appealed, however.

"It's still touch and go until they can nail this down a little better," said UMKC Law School professor Daniel Weddle.

The ruling was based on a phone survey which asked parents if they planned to transfer their kids to a neighboring district and if so, which one. That information was used to calculate how much the transfers would cost each district. But the judge himself said the survey's data would constantly change over time.

For that reason, educational law expert Daniel Weddle recommends parents don't make moves to transfer their kids yet.

"It makes a lot of sense to be cautious I think as parents and make a move when it's a little clearer how it's going to play out down the road," said Weddle.

Many school administrators say they expect this case to be appealed to the Supreme Court, as a similar case was earlier this year in St. Louis that's still ongoing.

A statement from Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Stephen Green says, "Today's ruling helps clear up some gray areas regarding accreditation transfers, but it also leaves a cloudy path as KCPS moves forward."

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