State Supreme Court ruling could hinder KCPS’ progress

By LESLIE COLLINS
Northeast News
December 11, 2013

A recent court ruling could hinder Kansas City Public Schools’ progress.

KCPS Superintendent Dr. Stephen Green addressed the issue during a Dec. 10 press conference. On Dec. 10, the Missouri Supreme Court voted to uphold the accreditation transfer law, which requires unaccredited school districts to pay for tuition, and in some cases transportation costs, for students wishing to transfer to an accredited school district.

KCPS lost its state accreditation in 2012 and failed to regain provisional accreditation this year.

“Based on DESE (Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) guidelines, we do not expect any transfers to take place before the 2014-2015 school year,” Green said. “At this moment, we do not know how many students may opt to transfer. We do not know the eventual cost of student transfers, as that is to be determined. We are hopeful our students will stay with us and continue their journey, but in the end, we are fully committed to educating the students.”

Just days before the ruling, KCPS held its Cruise to Achievement event aimed at recruiting and retaining students; approximately 700 people attended the event.

Tuition varies by each school district and among each school. The average tuition for surrounding school districts is around $10,000 per student, but the Raytown school district charges about $14,000 per student. KCPS only receives $3,500 per student from the state.

Despite the ruling, KCPS students may not be able to transfer immediately, said KCPS Chief Communications and Community Engagement Officer Eileen Houston Houston-Stewart.

“There’s so many unknowns,” she said.

For a student to transfer, the surrounding school district must agree to accept that student, she said. KCPS and the school district would then negotiate a tuition payment. If the districts can’t agree upon an amount, state education officials will decide the tuition amount. It’s still unclear whether the surrounding districts will be required to accept incoming KCPS students or if they can deny students due to lack of space and resources, she said. Student transportation costs would vary, depending on the distance of the surrounding school district and the number of KCPS students attending a particular district, said Houston-Stewart. KCPS would only be required to pay transportation costs to the following school districts: Raytown, Independence, North Kansas City and Center.

“As always, our primary concern is for the welfare of our nearly 16,000 students,” Green said. “They deserve a healthy, stable and caring school within their neighborhood. This ruling, along with an inadequate transfer law, has the potential to rip that away from thousands of urban students. That flies in the face of our community’s crystal clear desire for stable schools.”

Green said the ruling affirms the district’s urgency in seeking accreditation reclassification to protect the school district’s stability.

“The inaction (of DESE) to date has already been devastating and threatens every accomplishment made by our students,” he said. “Something needs to be done. Our children deserve stable schools, and the time for greater action is near.”

Green said he will meet with the KCPS Board of Education members in the upcoming days to discuss the district’s next steps.

“We’re keeping all of our options on the table,” he said.

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