Good ruling strikes down student transfers
The Kansas City Star
A Missouri law permitting students to transfer out of unaccredited school districts was a hammer too lethal to be used. A St. Louis Circuit judge made the right decision by striking it down.
Judge David Lee Vincent III’s ruling gives some breathing room to the unaccredited Kansas City and St. Louis school districts and accredited neighboring districts. Allowing students to transfer at will, with the unaccredited districts picking up the bills, would have wreaked even more educational havoc in Missouri’s largest metropolitan areas.
The matter is not resolved, however. Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said his office will appeal Vincent’s ruling to the state Supreme Court.
Koster’s job is to defend state law. But this particular law would do more harm than good.
The solution lies with the Missouri legislature, which could pass a bill clarifying the circumstances under which transfers should be permitted.
But, in an abject failure of leadership, the legislature shirked that responsibility last year and appears ready to do so again this session.
Transfers on any scale are not an antidote to failing schools. In Kansas City, they would stress outlying districts while further eviscerating the core area served by the Kansas City Public Schools.
Wiser prescriptions are urgently needed. That district’s failure to adequately educate children is a blight on our city and state.
Legislation allowing the state to intervene in the governance and administration of unaccredited school districts without the two-year waiting period currently required would be a good first step. Surely lawmakers can get that done before the session ends on May 18.
State Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro and the Board of Education must then have a serious discussion about the Kansas City district’s governance structure.
School board members themselves have proposed some positive changes, including reducing the size of the board and electing all members at-large, rather than by subdistricts. Those would have to be written into statute by the legislature.
Nicastro and the board of education must also assess whether Kansas City could be served better with a board selected by a different method, such as a panel of city leaders and educators.
The judge’s ruling on transfers removed a hammer, at least for now. Kansas City and state leaders must renew their search for the right tools to reverse the urban school district’s culture of dysfunction.