Turner v. Clayton


As Missouri schools begin preparing for another year of student transfers, the woman who brought the case all the way to the state Supreme Court is at the brink of bankruptcy and wondering where her daughters will get their education this fall.

Gina Breitenfeld is being sued by the Clayton School District for more than $24,000 in unpaid tuition. She says that the financial toll of the case, plus unpleasant comments about the transfers made within earshot of her daughters, prompted her to pull them out of the Clayton schools toward the end of the just completed school year.

knittymarie / Flickr

This fall the unaccredited Riverview Gardens School District in north St. Louis County will cover transportation costs for students who transfer to the accredited Mehlville School District, which is about 20 miles away.  

James Cridland via Flickr

The top legal issue in the day’s news was the U.S.

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Updated 5:34 p.m. to include comments from Chris Tennill of  the School District of Clayton

The Missouri Department Of Elementary & Secondary Education has issued its own guidelines for the transfer process of students from unaccredited districts to those which are accredited.

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Updated 4:38 p.m. & 5:44 p.m.

The Missouri Supreme Court has upheld a state law that allows students to transfer from unaccredited districts to ones that are accredited.

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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.

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Updated at 5:30 pm with comments from lawmakers.

Updated at 4:45 with statement from Missouri Department of Education and to correct grammar mistake.

Updated at 1:55 with comments from attorney, Clayton School District.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

A St. Louis County judge has ruled that a Missouri law allowing students to transfer from unaccredited districts to neighboring accredited ones for free is unconstitutional.

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The Missouri Supreme Court has ruled that the Webster Groves School District in suburban St. Louis County does not have to admit a student from the unaccredited St. Louis Public Schools.

Tuesday's ruling also sent the case - King-Willmann v. Webster Groves School District - back to the trial court, saying "contested issues of fact" had not been resolved.

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A St. Louis County judge begins hearing arguments in a case that has the potential to allow thousands of Kansas City and St. Louis students to leave their unaccredited school systems.

(See our own Maria Altman's feature on the issue here).

The hearing, which began Monday, involves a state law that requires unaccredited districts to pay tuition and transportation for students within their boundaries to attend accredited schools.

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For nearly 20 years Missouri has had a law on the books that allows students in unaccredited school districts to transfer to nearby accredited ones.

It’s a policy that makes sense on the surface.

Yet as of this year both the St. Louis and Kansas City public schools are without state accreditation.

As St. Louis Public Radio’s Maria Altman reports, the law would allow thousands of students to transfer into suburban districts at a huge cost to the urban schools.

(Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio)

Legislation that’s designed to stop a potential mass exodus of students from unaccredited schools in St. Louis and Kansas City to nearby suburban schools was heard Tuesday before a Missouri Senate committee.

The bill’s provisions include scholarships for kids in unaccredited public schools to attend private schools, and it would allow accredited schools to open charter schools in unaccredited districts.  Tina Hardin of St. Louis spoke in favor of the bill.  Her son was accepted into a Catholic school, but says she can’t afford to send him there.

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)

Updated at 1:40 p.m. with additional information from the Lindbergh School District.

Updated at 2:45 p.m. with information from the Webster Groves School District.

Updated at 3:57 p.m. with a statement from the Kirkwood School District.

(Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio)

The 2012 Missouri legislative session is underway, and much of the first-day talk revolved around the challenges facing the state’s public schools.

In addition to Missouri’s K-12 schools not being fully funded, suburban school districts near St. Louis and Kansas City may be forced to accept thousands of transfer students from the inner cities, thanks to the State Supreme Court’s ruling in Turner v. Clayton.  House Speaker Steven Tilley (R, Perryville) says any solutions to those problems should include tuition tax credits for kids in unaccredited areas, and statewide expansion of charter schools.

(Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio)

A state legislative committee heard testimony today on what options should be considered for students enrolled at unaccredited schools in Missouri.  It’s part of another effort to address a recent State Supreme Court ruling.

Turner v. Clayton affirmed that students not only have the right to transfer away from an unaccredited school district, but that the failing district has to pick up the tab.  State and local officials fear it could lead to a mass exodus from schools in St. Louis, Kansas City and Riverview Gardens.