CLAYTON, MO (KTVI) – A court decision that would have allowed thousands of students in unaccredited school districts, like the city of St. Louis, to transfer to districts of their choice has been struck down. The Turner v. Clayton case has been decided and plaintiffs don’t like it.
Missouri law essentially said that students in unaccredited districts were being denied their right to public education. The remedy was to allow them to transfer to another district at the expense of the unaccredited one. In this case, the student was trying to go to school in Clayton.
Tuesday’s ruling says the mandate is both a violation of the state constitution and impossible from a practical standpoint.
A Clayton School District spokesman says this is a symptom of a much larger problem: flawed legislation that needs to be fixed in Jefferson City.
“No one’s ever said we’re not interested in taking these students, not interested in helping these students coming from unaccredited school districts,” Chris Tennill of the Clayton district said in an interview. “We just want to control the number we have. To put it simply, if we have three extra seats, we want to take three extra kids, not three hundred.”
But the attorney for plaintiffs in the case says claims of logistical and financial worries on the part of districts like Clayton are highly exaggerated. He says a relatively small number of families had actually inquired about moving to other districts.
“The practical reality is not many people have expressed interest. And so I think this is largely a fanciful parade of horrible,” attorney Elkin Kistner said of what he calls an exaggeration of numbers, “ and exaggerations are not appropriate evidence.”
St. Louis City, Riverview Gardens, and Kansas City would be the districts footing the bill for students. In St. Louis, officials say they’re happy with the decision. They say if the law stood, they would spend more than 85% of their revenue on tuition in districts like Clayton, Kirkwood, and Webster Groves.
“We feel, based on the testimony we’ve provided that it would be very difficult for the district to survive, almost not being able to survive quite frankly,” St. Louis Superintendent Dr. Kelvin Adams said.
Of course the district getting its accreditation back would make this a moot point. Adams insists the city is well on its way to doing just that.
Meanwhile, this doesn’t appear to be over. Kistner says he expects yet another appeal in the case.