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How do St. Louis City parents apply to neighboring accredited school districts?

CEAM is receiving calls from parents in unaccredited school districts on a regular basis asking how to apply to neighboring accredited school districts to place their child. Parents are informed of the recent Missouri Supreme Court case of Turner v. Clayton and are anxious for the lower courts to return their decision in this on-going case.

The questions they are asking:

  1. What is the process by which I can apply to place my child in a neighboring accredited school district under the Missouri Statute 167.131?
  2. Is it true that my home district will be legally obliged to pay for my child to attend the receiving school?
  3. What will happen? Will they accept my child?
  4. What do I do if my child is refused?

Unfortunately, we do not know the process nor do we know what will happen. Nor does CEAM function in the role of advising parents on this process. We do, however, believe that the recent decision with its interpretation of Missouri Statute 167.131 clearly gives parents the right not only to apply to a neighboring district, but also to be accepted.

Just today I received a call from a firefighter residing in the city who has been able to ‘manage’ paying for his 3 children to attend a private elementary school not far from where he lives. However, one of his children will enter high school next year and he is concerned about the expense of a private high school and concerned about his child’s future.

He asked all the questions above, as all parents in his circumstance are asking. Unfortunately, we cannot provide a clear answer.

I tried to find out, within the constructs of the limitations of our mission. Under our 501c3 status, we inform our community on research-based education related reforms that are having impact both in our community and across the nation. We are also able to inform our community on developments relevant here in our own state, like the recent Supreme Court case, Turner v. Clayton.

Out of curiosity, I called SLPS to inquire what the process is. I was transferred to Lou Kruger in the recruitment office and asked, ‘What is the process by which I can apply to place my child in a neighboring accredited school district?” He answered that there is no process in place right now and the Supreme Court decision is not yet final. He said, ‘If you live in the city, you can go to the city. If you live in Clayton, you can go there.’ He said there is ‘no format by which to send or receive.’ He said there is no provision yet, but I was welcome to contact schools I had in mind.

Hmmm…So, then I did just that: I called a potential receiving district~Clayton, of course. I was connected with a young woman and asked: “If I live in the city and am interested in enrolling my child in your district, what is the process?” She politely informed me of the ‘tuition program’ for non-residents and informed me of the cost of tuition for each grade level. When I inquired on how to apply under the Missouri Statute referenced in the Supreme Court decision, she informed me that the decision is not final. So, I asked, “If anyone applies under that statute, they will be refused?” She answered, “Yes.”

City employees are required to live in the city. That law is enforced. Shouldn’t they have access to quality schools in their neighborhood such that they don’t have to pay tuition at a private school for their children? And shouldn’t the law guaranteeing their right to that school also be enforced?

What alternatives do these parents have? Options of choice should be expanded for these dedicated individuals and their children, like charter schools and open enrollment.  SLPS is proposing a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools.  As a parent, I would want options immediately, while the district works toward improving.

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