The Missouri Supreme Court today heard arguments over a 20-year-old law that requires unaccredited school districts to pay tuition for students who transfer to nearby accredited schools.
Last year, St. Louis County Judge David Vincent the Third ruled that the law in question was both unconstitutional and unenforceable, and that it would create an unfunded mandate for unaccredited schools. Attorney Elkin Kistner represents Gina Breitenfeld, a St. Louis woman who enrolled her children in the Clayton School district.
“There’s no support under the law for providing the (school) districts with an impossibility defense, which is heretofore an unrecognized defense in a civil action," Kistner said.
In addition, the state argued that school districts, regardless of their accreditation status, have always been required to educate all resident students, and that paying their tuition in another district is a mere extension of that requirement. Jim Layton with the State Attorney General’s office said that one of Judge Vincent’s main concerns has been rendered moot.
“Whether it’s provisional or full accreditation doesn’t make any difference," Layton told the High Court. "The moment that the (St. Louis) school district became provisionally accredited, the students no longer had a right under (section) 167.131 -- the St. Louis School District was then obligated to open their doors to those students.”
The Missouri Supreme Court has not ruled on the case yet. Their decision could affect thousands of students, including those in Kansas City, where the city’s school district lost accreditation in September of 2011.
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