Clayton, MO (KSDK) - A landmark decision from the St. Louis County Circuit Court in the Turner v. Clayton case means the Clayton School District does not have to accept students from St. Louis public schools.
City parents filed suit against the Clayton School District because they wanted to send their children to Clayton and other neighboring school districts.
After the St. Louis Public School District lost its accreditation in 2007, the Oustanding Schools Act (1993) mandated that Clayton and other school districts admit city kids and that the transitional school district in St. Louis would pick up the tab for tuition. However, the Outstanding Schools Act did not include anything about state funding.
The plantiff in the case, local real estate agent Gina Breitenfeld, had sent her two children to schools in Clayton. The children never attended St. Louis public schools, so the transitional district would receive no state funding for their education.
Breitenfeld's children attended Clayton schools during the 2009-10, 2010-11, and 2011-12 school years. She applied for declaration of residence in Clayton and agreed to pay the tuition if she did not reside in Clayton. Since Breitenfeld is a City of St. Louis resident, she owed the Clayton School District more than $49,000 in tuition.
When St. Louis public schools lost their accreditation, Breitenfeld tried to have the transitional school district pay for her kids to attend schools in Clayton. When the transitional district refused to pay, Breitenfeld filed suit against both districts.
The St. Louis Public School District said they would be bankrupt if thousands of students left for the suburbs. A recent survey by Dr. E. Terrance Jones of the University of Missouri-St. Louis claimed that if given a choice, approximately 15,700 students would leave the city system for other schools. More than 8,300 of those transfers would come from city public schools.
During the course of the trial, SLPS Superintendent Dr. Kelvin Adams testified that if those 15,700 students were to transfer, it would cost upwards of $262 million per year to cover their expenses, leaving the district with only $26 million to educate the remaining 15,100 students in grades K-12.
At present, the St. Louis Public School District educates over 23,000 students from kindergarten to 12th grade in 76 schools. The district will not be eligible for reaccreditation with the Missouri Board of Education until 2014.
The Clayton School District educates approximately 2,500 students from kindergarten to 12th grade in five schools. The district has an operating budget of approximately $50 million. Based on Dr. Jones' report, enrollment would more than double if kids from outside districts were allowed to attend.
Dr. Kelvin Adams, Superintendent of the St. Louis Public School District released the following statement:
"We are pleased with Judge Vincent's ruling today. We will continue moving forward with our plans to serve our current students and their families as well as to meet the needs of students and families who will be new to the District next year.
"This ruling acknowledges the improvement we have made in the District and will be supported by additional data I will present at Thursday night's Special Administrative Board meeting (6:00 PM, May 3rd) comparing data of student performance in our magnet schools to that of city students in county school districts.
"Parents should feel confident that there are education options for their students in the St. Louis Public Schools at our magnet schools and neighborhood schools."
Chris Nicastro, Missouri Commissioner of Education released the following statement:
"We believe the Breitenfeld, et al. v. School District of Clayton case is an important issue that needs to be resolved for the children and schools affected by the ruling, and we will continue to monitor this case. We are in support of any effort that ensures quality education for children."