Information about Kansas City Public Schools loss of accreditation and its impact on Lee’s Summit R-7 schools

Information about this issue is provided
within the following press releases:

June 18, 2012, Press Release
Jan. 10, 2012, Press Release
Dec. 31, 2011, Press Release
Dec. 26, 2011, Press Release


Trial date for case concerning student transfers postponed to Aug. 6

A lawsuit concerning student transfers from the Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS) to neighboring accredited school districts was scheduled to go to trial on June 25.  During a pre-trial conference held on June 13, the trial was postponed for six weeks and rescheduled to begin on Aug. 6.

The lawsuit was filed on Dec. 23, 2011, by the Blue Springs, Independence, Lee’s Summit R-7, North Kansas City and Raytown School Districts, as well as individual taxpayers from those districts. Kansas City Public Schools, the State of Missouri, the Missouri attorney general and the State Board of Education are named as respondents in the action. The case was placed on an expedited docket in an effort to resolve the student transfer issue before the 2012-2013 school year, but state officials argued at the pre-trial conference that the trial should be postponed so the state can conduct additional discovery concerning an expert retained by the school districts and taxpayers.

In the lawsuit, the school districts challenge Missouri Revised Statute § 167.131, which requires accredited school districts to admit students from unaccredited districts without state funding. The school districts assert that Section 167.131 is unconstitutional under the Hancock Amendment to the Missouri Constitution. The Hancock Amendment prohibits the State of Missouri from imposing new activities on political subdivisions without “full state financing” and a specific appropriation by the legislature. The state has provided no financing for student transfers from Kansas City Public Schools and does not intend to provide any financing for this new requirement.

The school districts and taxpayers retained an expert, Kenneth DeSieghardt of Patron Insight, Inc., to conduct a survey concerning the number of Kansas City Public Schools students who will transfer to their districts if the court holds the statute to be constitutional and forces the districts to admit non-resident, Kansas City Public Schools students. As part of the survey, more than 600 randomly-selected KCPS parents were asked whether they would send their child to a different school if they were permitted to do so and if they did not have to pay tuition.  The survey also asked the parents about how the availability of transportation and the possible reaccreditation of the Kansas City Public Schools would impact their transfer decision.

The survey results demonstrate that substantial numbers of students will transfer out of Kansas City Public Schools if the court does not invalidate Section 167.131 as an unfunded mandate. The survey found that at least 7,759 students will transfer to the Blue Springs, Independence, Lee’s Summit R-7, North Kansas City and Raytown School Districts. Each of the school districts would receive a minimum of 741 to 2,291 new students. The report prepared by Mr. DeSieghardt indicates that his study was based upon a “very conservative” methodology that has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent, at the 95-percent confidence level.

The report prepared by Mr. DeSieghardt was attached to a brief that the school districts and taxpayers filed on May 18. The State of Missouri did not ask to depose Mr. DeSieghardt between the date state officials received his report (May 18) and the date of the pre-trial conference (June 13). Nonetheless, the State of Missouri asserted that the trial could not go forward on June 25 because it needed to conduct a deposition of Mr. DeSieghardt. The Honorable W. Brent Powell expressed frustration that the State of Missouri had failed to depose Mr. DeSieghardt in a timely manner, but also rescheduled the trial for Aug. 6, which should permit the judge to issue a ruling prior to the first day of the 2012-2013 school year.

Posted: 06/18/12

Area School Districts Seek Continuance and Respond to ACLU Letter 
Continuance allows time for KCPS Board of Education to
revise its student transfer policy to comply with state law

Attorneys representing five area school districts that recently questioned the Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS) student transfer policy have requested a continuance of a hearing scheduled for Jan. 12 in Jackson County Court. The five districts are Blue Springs, Independence, Lee’s Summit R-7, North Kansas City and Raytown.

In the preliminary hearing Dec. 30, attorneys for KCPS admitted that KCPS Board of Education student transfer policy did not align with state statute (RSMO 167.131). If the continuance is granted, KCPS Board of Education would have time to consider revising its policy. Attorney Duane Martin requested the continuance on Jan. 9.

In addition, Mr. Martin responded to a letter sent Jan. 6 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri and Kansas (ACLU).

In his reply, Mr. Martin explained the parameters of the state law that guide transfers of students from an unaccredited school district to an accredited one in an adjoining county:
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.  If KCPS fails to meet the conditions of Section 167.131 regarding tuition and transportation, KCPS students do not have a statutory right to attend a neighboring public school.

The five area districts have board policies that require tuition in full and in advance before a transfer student can be enrolled.  KCPS board policy offers only a small portion of the actual tuition and in monthly installments. In addition, the policy shifts the responsibility of providing transportation of KCPS transfer students to the receiving school districts.

In the ACLU reply, Mr. Martin provided additional perspective on the overarching issues related to potential KCPS student transfers.  “It is critical to remember that all students will suffer if KCPS fails to meet the statutory requirements. As you know, the receiving public school districts are underfunded and cannot advance funds for the unanticipated expenditures associated with significant numbers of new students,” he said.

“Furthermore, if the receiving districts accept KCPS students without payment of tuition up front, 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,” he added.

At this time, the five area school districts are taking information from prospective KCPS student transfers, but are not enrolling transfers until board policy requirements are met.  The five districts also are waiting for the outcome of another legal challenge to the statute in the Missouri Supreme Court.

Posted: 01/10/12

Jackson County judge denies request for temporary restraining order from area school districts seeking clarification from court
Lee’s Summit R-7 School District included among local districts

Several area school districts, as well as individual taxpayers from those districts, filed a petition in Jackson County court on Dec. 23 seeking clarification regarding a Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS) policy governing student transfers. The districts are Blue Springs, Independence, Lee’s Summit R-7, North Kansas City and Raytown with the Center School District joining the suit later in December. The petition sought to delay the implementation of the KCPS transfer policy while the education and governance issues of KCPS are determined in the courts, Missouri legislature or State Board of Education.

On Dec. 30, Circuit Court Judge W. Brent Powell denied a temporary restraining order requested by the area districts. The restraining order would have temporarily prohibited the transfer of students from the Kansas City Missouri School District to surrounding districts until the court could provide clarification regarding Kansas City Public School’s policy regarding student transfers.

The ruling does not change the fact that, in order to comply with state law, KCPS must provide tuition and transportation consistent with Lee’s Summit R-7 School District Board of Education policy before any student transfers can take place. The Lee’s Summit R-7 School District will begin taking information from any student requesting a future transfer from the Kansas City Missouri School District as part of a pre-registration process, but will not be enrolling students or accepting transfers until those requirements are met.

On Jan. 12, Lee’s Summit R-7 and the other five school districts are scheduled to be back in court seeking further clarification regarding KCPS’s transfer policy and the responsibility of both KCPS and surrounding school districts under current state law.

Lee’s Summit R-7 officials hopeful that a long-term, sustainable plan will be developed for the future of the Kansas City Missouri School District.

“We want to be a part of a solution that is in the best interests of all students,” said Dr. David McGehee, Lee’s Summit R-7 superintendent. “At the same time, we will not be enrolling students from any unaccredited school district until we can assure our taxpayers that they will not be footing the bill for the education of students from the Kansas City School District.”

KCPS loses its accreditation Jan. 1, 2012. Under state law, students residing in the Kansas City Missouri School District are eligible to apply for a transfer to an accredited school district in Jackson County or an adjoining county. Prior to 1993, this law stated that accredited school districts could choose whether or not to admit students from unaccredited schools.  Under an amendment to the law in 1993, accredited schools districts are required to admit student transfers from an unaccredited district if the unaccredited district provides transportation and pays tuition as determined by the accredited district. Blue Springs, Independence, Lee’s Summit, North Kansas City, Raytown and Center are accredited school districts to which KCPS students may seek a transfer.

On Dec. 21, the KCPS Board of Education adopted a policy that requires the receiving accredited school districts to provide transportation for students. The policy does not state that KCPS will pay tuition in an amount set by the accredited districts or in accordance with the accredited districts’ tuition policies. Furthermore, the KCPS policy also does not allow all resident students to transfer, but instead, only allows students who have attended a KCPS school for two academic semesters immediately preceding the transfer request to a transfer.

The five districts listed above are committed and bound to meeting their legal obligations to all students involved.

The joint petition filed Dec. 23 by Lee’s Summit R-7 and the other area districts asked the court to clarify the rights and responsibilities of the parties under the recent KCPS student transfer policy.  The petition also asked the court to clarify the responsibilities of the parties under the statute regarding transfers, and to determine that the KCPS Board of Education policy is in violation of the Hancock Amendment.

Specifically, the petition asked for:
1. An injunction prohibiting KCPS from transferring resident pupils of KCPS according to its student transfer policy or in accordance with state law, Section 167.131 revised statutes of Missouri.

2. The court to declare:
a. KCPS student transfer policy is void as a violation of 167.131 revised statutes of Missouri.
b. KCPS transfer policy is invalid as it requires accredited schools to provide an education for and transportation of KCPS students in violation of Hancock Amendment.

3. In addition, as an alternative, the petition asks for:
a. A declaration that under 167.131, KCPS must pay tuition for all KCPS students who seek to transfer to any accredited school district in an amount determined by the accredited school district’s board of education, according to the tuition formula in 167.131,  and in accordance with the tuition policies of the accredited school district.
b. Declaring that under 167.131, KCPS must provide transportation for all KCPS students who seek to transfer to any accredited school district.

The petition is designed as an interim measure until the overarching issues surrounding the future of KCPS can be resolved. By taking this action collectively, the area districts hope to prevent the disruption of KCPS students’ education in the middle of an academic year, as well as provide time for a lasting and positive educational solution to be determined that will ultimately benefit all students.

Posted: 12/31/11

Area school districts seek clarification from court
Lee’s Summit R-7 School District included

Five area school districts, as well as individual taxpayers from those districts, have filed a petition in Jackson County court seeking clarification regarding a Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS) policy governing student transfers. The districts are:  Blue Springs, Independence, Lee’s Summit, North Kansas City and Raytown.  The petition seeks to delay the implementation of the KCPS transfer policy while the education and governance issues of KCPS are determined in the courts, legislature or State Board of Education.

KCPS loses its accreditation Jan. 1, 2012. Under state law, students residing in the Kansas City, Mo., school district are eligible to apply for a transfer to an accredited school district in Jackson County or an adjoining county. Prior to 1993, this law stated that accredited school districts could choose whether or not to admit students from unaccredited schools.  Under an amendment to the law in 1993, accredited schools districts are required to admit student transfers from an unaccredited district if the unaccredited district provides transportation and pays tuition as determined by the accredited district. Blue Springs, Independence, Lee’s Summit, North Kansas City and Raytown are accredited school districts to which KCPS students may seek a transfer.

On Dec. 21, 2011, the KCPS Board of Education adopted a policy that requires the receiving accredited school districts to provide transportation for students. The policy does not state that KCPS will pay tuition in an amount set by the accredited districts or in accordance with the accredited districts’ tuition policies. Furthermore, the KCPS policy also does not allow all resident students to transfer, but instead, only allows students who have attended a KCPS school for two academic semesters immediately preceding the transfer request to a transfer.

The five districts listed above are committed and bound to meeting their legal obligations to all students involved.

On Friday, Dec. 23, representatives from the five districts filed the joint petition in Jackson County, which asks the court to clarify the rights and responsibilities of the parties under the recent KCPS student transfer policy.  The petition also asks the court to clarify the responsibilities of the parties under the statute regarding transfers, and to determine that the KCPS Board of Education policy is in violation of the Hancock Amendment.

Specifically, the petition asks for:
1.  An injunction prohibiting KCPS from transferring resident pupils of KCPS according to its student transfer policy or in accordance with state law, Section 167.131 revised statutes of Missouri.
2.  The court to declare:
a.     KCPS student transfer policy is void as a violation of 167.131 revised statutes of Missouri.
b.     KCPS transfer policy is invalid as it requires accredited schools to provide an education for and transportation of KCPS students in violation of Hancock Amendment.
3.  In addition, as an alternative, the petition asks for:
a.     A declaration that under 167.131, KCPS must pay tuition for all KCPS students who seek to transfer to any accredited school district in an amount determined by the accredited school district’s Board of Education, according to the tuition formula in 167.131,  and in accordance with the tuition policies of the accredited school district.
b.     Declaring that under 167.131, KCPS must provide transportation for all KCPS students who seek to transfer to any accredited school district.

The petition is designed as an interim measure until the overarching issues surrounding the future of KCPS can be resolved. By taking this action collectively, the five districts hope to prevent the disruption of KCPS students’ education in the middle of an academic year, as well as provide time for a lasting and positive educational solution to be determined that will ultimately benefit all students.

Posted: 12/26/11

*Lee’s Summit R-7 Legislative Platform

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