How Choice Changes The Transfer Dynamic In Kansas City
The recent Missouri Supreme Court decision, which upheld the state’s inter-district school transfer law, has many in Kansas City on the edge of their seats. They have watched the events unfold in Saint Louis, where the two unaccredited districts, Normandy and Riverview Gardens, have already begun allowing students to transfer. Some are worried the law will bankrupt the Kansas City School District as it may do in the two Saint Louis districts. There is, however, good reason to believe student transfers may impact Kansas City much differently than it has Normandy and Riverview Gardens. That reason is school choice.
Students in Normandy and Riverview Gardens do not have access to charter schools or magnet schools. Until they were allowed to transfer, the only options they had were to move or to pay for private schools. In Kansas City, however, there are charter schools and magnet schools. In fact, more than a third of all public school students are already in a charter school (9,692 in 2013). Because so many Kansas City students are already in schools of choice, it seems unlikely that the percentage of students transferring will be as high as the 25 percent in Normandy and Riverview Gardens.
Nevertheless, the district may actually be better off if charter students decide to transfer. As I have written before, Kansas City spends more than most of the surrounding districts and could come out on top financially. Currently, charter school funds follow the child to his or her school through the district — to the tune of $12,482 per pupil. The average per-pupil expenditure in the 11 nearby districts highlighted in my last post is just $10,075, a difference of $2,407. That is $2,407 per student that the district could pocket, less transportation costs, if a charter student decides to transfer.
The existing prevalence of school choice in Kansas City will most likely make the impact of student transfers minimal in comparison to the experiences at Normandy and Riverview Gardens. If school leaders in Kansas City and the surrounding areas handle the situation well, this expansion of school choice could actually benefit the districts and the students.