By Sheila Solon
state representative, Blue Springs
Many families in our area have expressed concerns about a recent decision by the Missouri Supreme Court to uphold a state law allowing children to transfers out of failing school districts. This is a particularly pressing issue in our area that borders the failing Kansas City School District. As I have talked to many families, it has become clear that uncertainty about the law has caused a great deal of confusion for everyone in our area.
What parents most need to know right now is that we are in a holding pattern as our school district and several others here in the Kansas City area wait on a court ruling in a similar but separate case. While schools in the St. Louis area are already processing transfer requests in the wake of the court ruling, our own district is waiting to see what the court decides on a lawsuit filed by the five Kansas City area districts, including Blue Springs.
If you recall, a Circuit Court judge ruled last year that the state’s student transfer law was unconstitutional for the school districts of Lee’s Summit, Independence and North Kansas City, but not for Blue Springs or Raytown. The judge’s ruling was based on whether the transfer policy created an unfunded mandate that would cause the receiving districts to incur additional costs that would not be paid for by the state. It was his decision that the Blue Springs and Raytown districts could afford to receive students from the Kansas City School District, which would pay their per pupil costs for each transferring student, because their per pupil costs are less than those of the Kansas City district. The school district immediately appealed this decision and is awaiting a decision from the Missouri Supreme Court.
In the meantime, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has put together transfer guidelines for school districts.
The bottom line is that the ruling in the St. Louis case is impactful in that it seems clear that the Supreme Court is inclined to uphold the transfer law. And yes, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released its set of guidelines for student transfers. However, this does not mean schools here in Blue Springs should be prepared to receive transfer students for the upcoming school year. In fact, as Dr. Kinder indicated in his statement, the district is not preparing to receive students and doesn’t plan to allow transfers until the appeal is decided. That would mean transfers into the Blue Springs School District could not happen until the 2014-15 school year at the earliest.
In the meantime, I will do all I can to work with the Blue Springs School District to prevent this poorly conceived law from negatively impacting our schools. We have seen estimates that as many as 1,500 students could transfer from the Kansas City district. Regardless of how much money the Kansas City district pays for each student, our district simply doesn’t have the buildings or teachers necessary to accommodate such an enormous influx. We must stand together to prevent this potentially devastating policy from becoming a reality.
In addition, I will do all I can in the halls of government in Jefferson City to help stave off this problem. The Missouri General Assembly has considered a legislative fix in recent years, but the bills have not made it all the way through the legislative process. I will certainly do all I can to help put such a proposal back on the table when the Missouri House convenes for session again in January.
Sheila Solon, a Republican, represents the 31st District, which includes parts of Blue Springs, Lake Lotawana and Lee’s Summit.
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