An appeals court ruled Tuesday that a Cole County judge erred in ordering charter schools to repay millions to the Kansas City School District.
At issue was money diverted from charter schools to help the Kansas City district pay off bonds that were issued to build and upgrade schools as required by a long-running federal desegregation case. Between $800 and $1,000 per student was withheld annually from Kansas City charter schools from 1999 to 2005, then later resumed in smaller amounts.
The withholdings began when the publicly funded schools opened in the city and began luring district students, and temporarily ended in 2005, when the Missouri Board of Fund Commissioners found the district didn’t need the money from the charter schools to pay off the bonds.
The district alleged that the state was reneging on a 1997 settlement in which the state paid $320 million to exit the district’s desegregation case. The district, which remained a defendant until court supervision of the desegregation case ended in August 2003, said the settlement agreement stipulated that the state refrain from acts that would undermine the district.
The withholdings resumed after a federal judge ruled in June 2006 that the money was needed to pay off the bonds. The district then sought to get back the $6.2 million it was unable to collect over that one-year span.
In October 2011, a Cole County judge sided with the Kansas City district and said it was owed the $6.2 million from the state, plus interest. The trial judge also ordered some of the charter schools to repay the district if the state did not.
But the appeals court disagreed in Tuesday’s ruling, saying the district had paid the money voluntarily and couldn’t get it back.
KC Schools Fall Short in Regaining Accreditation
August 14, 2012
The Kansas City Missouri School District (KCPS) failed in its bid to make enough classroom progress to restore provisional accreditation from the state of Missouri.
The district had hoped it was making enough progress in the lower grades to get at least partial accreditation restored.
The district, however, did make some progress.
According to new numbers from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), the Kansas City District gained two more points, for a total of five. It needs 10 of 14 points to regain accreditation. One of the points was a bonus for making academic progress. The district improved in several areas of the MAP testing.
The Kansas City Star reports another area school district is in danger of losing full accreditation. The Hickman Mills District in south Kansas City lost two points. It could be in jeopardy of losing full accreditation status, according to the Star. The State Board of Education evaluates Hickman Mills’ status next month.
According to the Associated Press, “new numbers from the state show the unaccredited St. Louis school district improving again academically. That puts the district in position to regain partial accreditation as early as next year if the gains continue.”
The AP says another smaller unaccredited district, Riverview, in St. Louis, also failed to make enough progress to restore its accreditation.
Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro hopes the Missouri legislature comes back to the Kansas School District take over bill that died in the final hours of the session.
The Missourinet reports the state’s education chief thinks her department needs more flexibility. She thinks if a school district in deep trouble, the state should have the ability to move in quickly. Now, the state laws blocks a state take over for two years after a district is stripped of it’s accreditation.
In Kansas City’s case that would be January 1, 2014.
The bill, Ti allow an immediate take over, dies on the last day of the session. Both chambers of the legislature had approved different versions of the bill. The basic idea had enough political support, but got tied up in late session state house politics.
“This is something weve been concerned about for some time,” NiCastro says. “What were really interested in, of course, is ensuring that each and every child gets the best education they can, and were not conviced at this time that’s happening for the children of Kansas City,” according to the Missourinet.
The report says Kansas City Democrat Sen. Jolie Justus blames the failure of the bill on teacher’s unions that lobbied against it.
Report: KC School Take Over Bill Linked to Teacher Lay Off Measure in Session’s Final Hours
May 17, 2012
JEFFERSON CITY | A bill allowing an immediate state takeover of the unaccredited Kansas City school district cleared the Missouri Senate Wednesday, putting it one vote in the House away from the governor’s desk.
But that vote won’t happen until the Senate passes a controversial bill barring seniority from playing a role in teacher layoffs, according to House Education Committee Chairman Scott Dieckhaus.
The stand off puts the success of the bill at risk, since the legislative session ends tomorrow at 6 p.m.
The Senate briefly debated the teacher layoff bill Wednesday. But facing opposition from several senators, the chamber moved on to other bills. Opponents contend the legislation effectively alters how teacher tenure would work in Missouri and could be a first step toward eliminating it. Supporters say it ensures schools judge faculty based on performance.
Dieckhaus said the House has no real issues with the Kansas City schools bill, which would eliminate the current two-year waiting period before the state could intervene in a district that loses its accreditation.
The bill won unanimous support from the House in March.
But without the teacher layoff bill, House leadership is unwilling to take up the state intervention bill, said Dieckhaus, a Washington Republican.
Missouri Lawmakers Vote to Expand Charter Schools
May 16, 2012
. (AP) — Missouri lawmakers on Tuesday approved an expansion of charter schools and created new requirements aimed at boosting accountability for those schools.
Supporters contend charter schools offer parents an additional option to the traditional public schools in their areas and that improving oversight would help to address those that underperform. The state House voted 99-54 to pass the legislation that would allow new charter schools to be established in struggling school districts. The measure already passed the Senate, and now goes to Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.
Lawmakers passed the charter school legislation in the final days of a legislative session that started in January with leaders calling for significant changes to Missouri’s education system. Efforts to adjust the state’s school funding formula, change teacher tenure and address student transfers out of unaccredited school districts are bogged down and face longer odds of passing before the session ends Friday.
Missouri has allowed charter schools for more than a decade in St. Louis and Kansas City. Under the new legislation, charter schools could be established in any district that has lost state accreditation and in districts that have been provisionally accredited for three straight academic years starting this fall. In accredited school districts, charter schools could be established under the sponsorship of the local school board.
Missouri has three unaccredited school districts: St. Louis, Kansas City and Riverview Gardens in St. Louis County. An additional nine school districts are provisionally accredited, including two in southeastern Missouri, two in St. Louis County and others scattered throughout the state.
Charter schools receive public funding, but unlike traditional public schools, they are independent and are sponsored by universities, community colleges or local school districts. The legislation would allow new entities to sponsor charter schools, including private vocational and technical schools and a newly created statewide Missouri Charter Public School Commission.