Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What's the cost of KC Students' Transfers?

Districts Turn to Courts
By Paul Thompson & Andrea Wood
  With the New Year came a turning point for the Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS), and it is one that some local school districts are turning to the court system to resolve.
On January 1st, KCPS students became eligible to transfer to a different school district, since their own district officially lost its accreditation by the state.
So far, Grandview C-4, Hickman Mills C-1 and Center are responding to the issue in a similar fashion: they say they are happy to accept KCPS students, as long as their tuition requirements and transportation are paid by KCPS.
For now that seems unlikely. Kansas City has stated it will reimburse local districts that accept KCPS transfer students only $3,733 per student, per year (paid in monthly installments) despite KCPS’s own tuition set at more than $14,000 per year.
As a comparison, the out-of-district yearly tuition per student for local school districts is as follows:
•        Grandview -  $11,869
•        Hickman Mills – $12,111.65
•        Center - $14,198 to $15,329
This amount does not include transportation costs, which local districts expect KCPS to pay as well. But KCPS has said it will not pay for transportation or the full tuition amount requested by its neighboring districts.
On December 23rd, the school districts of Raytown, Lee’s Summit, Independence, Blue Springs and North Kansas City filed a lawsuit asking the court to halt KCPS student transfers until questions surrounding tuition and transportation are resolved. Center also joined the lawsuit, stating that it hoped to minimize mid-year disruptions.
Last Friday, Jackson County Judge Brent Powell rejected the suburban districts’ request. However, until the difference in tuition and transportation costs are resolved, KCPS students can apply for a transfer, but will likely not be able to switch districts yet.
“Board policy requires that Center tuition must be paid in full prior to any transfers starting in our district,” said Kelly Wachel, spokesperson for Center. “We will continue to take applications and information from any student and family requesting a transfer to Center School District, but we will not be accepting transfers until our board policy regarding tuition and transportation requirements are met.”
Where do KCPS students wish to transfer? So far, some districts are seeing more students interested in transferring than others. In the lawsuit that was filed, those districts said they expected potentially hundreds of students to seek transfers.
Grandview school officials said they have only had a few phone calls about potential transfers. Hickman Mills has seen a similar lack of action so far.
“We have had no KCPS students apply at C-1,” said district spokeswoman Regina Taylor last week.

Grandview C-4
School officials in Grandview are laying low on the issue thus far. The district did not join the lawsuit due to the limited number of transfer inquiries they have received, and the associated costs of litigation.
The district doesn’t expect a surge of new KCPS students for the second semester. C-4 PR Director Lane Lucas indicated that he believed the majority of requests would be filed to the North KC, Raytown, and Independence school districts. Superintendent Dr. Ralph Teran concurred, noting that the district would take a wait-and-see approach, but that any incoming students from out of district would likely be obligated to pay out-of-district tuition and transportation.
With many dominoes still yet to fall, Teran emphasized the importance of finding a solution that worked for all parties.
“There needs to be a solution for Kansas City, and the solution for them should be one where adjoining and neighboring districts don’t get hurt,” said Teran. “You (don’t want to) come up with a remedy, and it’s worse than the illness.”

At its most recent school board meeting, Hickman Mills officials took action to clarify their out-of-district tuition policies.
Hickman Mills Superintendent Dr. Marge Williams also sent a letter to parents last week addressing questions about how potential KCPS student transfers could impact their district.
“While we anticipate no immediate impact on our schools, we do want you to know we are working with the KCPS to do what’s best for ALL children, regardless of where they attend class,” Dr. Williams stated in a letter to parents last week (read the full letter at
She reiterated that the district would not accept any transfers unless KCPS pays the full tuition for students, and pays for the transportation of those students.

Center joined five local suburban school districts in the lawsuit that asked the courts to either halt KCPS student transfers until the tuition and transportation issue had been resolved, or force KCPS to pay for those costs according to the district receiving the students.
Although the judge rejected the suit, the issue is not out of the courts yet.
“Court challenges to current laws, potential new legislation, and other factors of uncertainty still surround the accreditation and transfer issue,” stated Kelly Wachel, spokesperson for Center.

Many district officials are working together through the Cooperating School Districts of Greater Kansas City organization—which has 29 metro school districts as members—to examine the issue. Center School Board President Joe Nastasi serves on the CSDGKC board of directors, and Dr. Williams serves on the organization’s accreditation task force.
As schools open back up this week following winter break, the question of where KCPS students are looking to go may become clearer. In the meantime, a decision must be made—either by the courts or by the Missouri Department of Education—regarding how Kansas City students will be able to transfer to a different district…one that may offer them an improved education, and future.

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