KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Five suburban school districts have gone to court to block transfers of students from the Kansas City district when it loses accreditation Jan. 1, arguing its plans for paying tuition and transportation are vague, insufficient and possibly illegal.
Missouri law allows children from unaccredited districts to transfer to accredited districts within the same or an adjoining county. Accredited districts must accept the transfers, with the unaccredited district required to pay tuition and transportation for students who transfer.
Officials at the Blue Springs, Independence, Lee's Summit, North Kansas City and Raytown schools districts announced Monday that they filed suit Friday in Jackson County Circuit Court, seeking a preliminary injunction to bar any transfers until the issues of transportation, tuition and eligibility are resolved.
Administrators in the accredited districts have said they expect significant numbers of Kansas City students to seek transfers.
"We don't know for sure how many kids we are talking about, which really makes this issue complex," Independence school superintendent Jim Hinson told KCTV (http://bit.ly/smmOMJ). "We have had contact from several hundred families."
The Kansas City district's offices are closed for the holidays. A message seeking comment Monday night was not returned.
Under a policy released earlier this month, the Kansas City district said it will pay accepting districts $3,733 in tuition per pupil for the 2012 fiscal year, to be paid in monthly installments. Kansas City also said it would cover transportation costs only for students enrolling in one of four specific, nearby districts.
The lawsuit states that those provisions violate Missouri law requiring an unaccredited district to cover the transportation costs for all students who transfer out and to pay tuition in the amount determined by an accredited district.
For example, according to the lawsuit, per-pupil tuition is $11,309 in the Blue Springs district, $9,637 in Independence and $9,339 for kindergarten through eighth grade and $10,869 in Lee's Summit.
The lawsuit asks a Jackson County judge to determine the tuition and transportation costs that the accredited districts must receive from the Kansas City district for accepting its students, and to declare the Kansas City district's policy in violation of the Missouri Constitution.
Hinson said the districts are looking to courts to bring some stability and "common-sense" answers to a complex issue. He said he hoped for a quick hearing and a ruling before classes resume in January.
"Kids and parents need to know what to do when they return to school after the holidays and where they might be able to return to school," Hinson said. "Give us direction on the legality of the issue and what we are really supposed to do as a school district."
The lawsuit also questions the Kansas City district's decision to pay costs only for transferring students who have attended its schools for at least two semesters.
Whatever the outcome in Jackson County Circuit Court, an appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court is likely. The high court ruled in July that an unaccredited school district must pay tuition for students transferring to an accredited school district, but it did not address tuition or whether an unaccredited district must allow all students to transfer.
Information from: KCTV-TV, http://www.kctv5.com