KCPS district accreditation issues continue

Tierra Samuel, staff writter

As of Jan. 1, Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS), formerly known as the Kansas City Missouri School District, is no longer accredited by the Missouri State Board of Education.

With the loss of accreditation, many other disputes have erupted, particularly for students who wish to leave the now-unaccredited district to attend other nearby accredited schools, such as North Kansas City School District (NKCSD) schools.

Five school districts, including NKCSD, have requested the courts rationalize the transfer laws for unaccredited schools.

In a preliminary hearing held on Dec. 30, attorneys for KCPS admitted that the KCPS Board of Education student transfer policy did not align with state statutes.

The attorneys representing NKC, Blue Springs, Independence, Lee’s Summit and Raytown school districts agreed that the transfer policy did not align as needed.

According to a NKCSD press release, the transfer law states that there are two primary limitations in this section: (1) the payment of tuition by the unaccredited district in the amount set by the accredited district’s board of education; and (2) the provision of transportation by the unaccredited district.

The attorneys representing NKCSD and the other area school districts prepared motions for summary judgment at the end of January, and are waiting for the next court hearing.

An important situation regarding the transfer law is the cost of tuition and the amount of money KCPS is willing to provide for students who wish to attend an accredited school.

The five area school districts have board policies that require tuition in full and in advance before a transfer student can be enrolled.

KCPS is only willing to give $3,733 for transferring students, paid in monthly installments. The district is also willing to pay for transportation.

Yet the tuition for out-of-district students to attend North Kansas City Schools is $9,508, paid in full and in advance.

The five districts said they won’t admit students until these tuition issues are resolved.

“If the receiving districts accept KCPS students without payment of tuition upfront, then they will be assuming additional obligations without a specific appropriation by the state, and the individual taxpayers will have their constitutional rights violated under the Hancock Amendment,” attorney Duane Martin stated in a NKCSD press release.

Besides the money and the students, the last but most important factor is the Missouri Supreme Court case Turner v. Clayton, a lawsuit that may possibly change transfer laws.

The results of this case may determine if and how students will be able to transfer to accredited school districts. The case has been ongoing for the past several years, and is currently scheduled to go to Missouri Supreme Court trial on March 5.

Like the KCPS district, the St. Louis Public Schools district lost its accreditation in 2007.

Students from that school district have had little movement to other school districts because of resistance of neighboring schools, including Clayton School District.

Assistant Principal Bart Bates said it is disturbing that students in Kansas City are being denied appropriate education, and NKCSD wants to help those students, but they also have to put NKC students first.

“The district and school has done a great job preparing for the situation,” Bates said.