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School districts move forward after Turner vs Clayton ruling

by John Knicely / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on May 1, 2012 at 9:11 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 2 at 6:01 AM

ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- A major ruling on Tuesday impacts families and taxpayers throughout the St. Louis area.  Circuit Judge Daniel Lee Vincent III ruled against student transfers from unaccredited St. Louis city schools to neighboring districts.  Now school districts make plans to move forward knowing it will be appealed.

The case, Turner vs Clayton, centers around a Missouri law that states an unaccredited district must cover the costs for its students to transfer to any neighboring district.  And those districts must accept the students.  St. Louis Public Schools lost accreditation in 2007. Judge Vincent ruled the law can’t be upheld because the districts would be forced to take on extra costs with no funding from the state.  The plaintiff’s attorney indicated Tuesday that they will appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court.

Dr. Kelvin Adams, St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent, applauded the ruling.  City schools will get an influx of students next year as the Imagine Charter schools were forced to close sending those students into city schools.  I asked Dr. Adams what needs to happen to keep families in the St. Louis district from wanting to move their kids to another district.

“Obviously we have to do a better job of providing the resources families want to have,” Dr. Adams said.  “We have to increase academic achievement.  We have to do a better job of customer service to our clients and I think we've been working to do that over the past 3 years.”  With the summer planning period coming, Dr. Adams said the timing is important.  “Obviously (the pending case) is something that we consider, the financial impact of what could occur. And so the decisions we make are always decisions including what if this happened.  We continue to make those decisions because of the likely appeal, but it’s less likely to happen over the next 30 to 60 days.  So we can continue to do the things important to moving students.”

St. Louis County districts also applauded the ruling.

“His decision reaffirms all of the contentions we have made about this case and the related statute for the past five years,” said Dr. Sharmon Wilkinson, Clayton Schools Interim Superintendent.  “Now that the courts have ruled that the status quo does not work, we have a responsibility to come together as educators to develop a new model for supporting unaccredited school districts and their students as they work to regain accreditation.”

“Our biggest concern is impact on local control,” said Dr. Bruce Borcher, Parkway Schools Superintendent.  Parkway will continue to turn down all requests of transfers from St. Louis city students until the appeal is satisfied.  Borcher says the issue is still “wait and see” with the impending appeal.

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