Breitenfeld v. Sch. Dist. of Clayton, No. SC 92653.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Missouri
Writing for the CourtMARY R. RUSSELL
Citation399 S.W.3d 816
PartiesGina BREITENFELD, Appellant, v. SCHOOL DISTRICT OF CLAYTON, et al., Respondents, State of Missouri and Attorney General Chris Koster, Appellants.
Docket NumberNo. SC 92653.
Decision Date11 June 2013

399 S.W.3d 816

Gina BREITENFELD, Appellant,
v.
SCHOOL DISTRICT OF CLAYTON, et al., Respondents,
State of Missouri and Attorney General Chris Koster, Appellants.

No. SC 92653.

Supreme Court of Missouri,
En Banc.

June 11, 2013.


[399 S.W.3d 819]


Solicitor General James R. Layton, Thomas D. Smith and Christopher J. Quinn, Attorney General's Office, Jefferson City, for the State.

Elkin L. Kistner and Sean M. Elam, Bick & Kistner PC, Clayton, for Breitenfeld.


Mark J. Bremer and D. Leo Human, Kohn, Shands, Elbert, Gianoulakis & Giljum LLP, St. Louis, for Clayton School District and Clayton Taxpayers.

Richard B. Walsh Jr. and Evan Z. Reid of Lewis, Rice & Fingersh LC, St. Louis, for Transitional School District.

Joshua M. Schindler, The Schindler Law Firm PC, St. Louis, for St. Louis School District Residents, who filed a brief as friends of the Court.

Melanie Gurley Keeney, Katherine L. Nash and Elizabeth J. Mooney, Tueth, Keeney, Cooper, Mohan & Jackstadt PC, St. Louis, for Cooperating School Districts of Greater St. Louis, which also filed a brief as friends of the Court.

MARY R. RUSSELL, Judge.

This appeal follows this Court's remand in Jane Turner, et al. v. School District of Clayton, et al., 318 S.W.3d 660 (Mo. banc 2010). At issue now is whether

[399 S.W.3d 820]

the trial court erred in concluding that the “Unaccredited District Tuition Statute,” section 167.131,1 is unenforceable as applied to the defendant school districts 2 because it violates the Hancock Amendment, Missouri Constitution article X, sections 16 to 22.3 Also at issue is whether the trial court wrongly determined that section 167.131 is unenforceable as applied to the defendant school districts because their compliance with that statute is “impossible.”

This Court finds that section 167.131, as it is applied to the defendant school districts involved in this case, does not violate the Hancock Amendment. Further, under the facts of this case, the trial court erred in finding that it would be “impossible” for the defendant school districts to comply with the requirements of section 167.131. Accordingly, the trial court's judgment is reversed, and the case is remanded.

I. Background
A. Turner prior to remand

Pursuant to section 167.131, “a school district that loses accreditation with the state board of education must pay tuition for any resident pupil who attends an accredited school in another district in the same or an adjoining county.” Turner, 318 S.W.3d at 664.Section 167.131 also establishes the tuition rate to be paid by the unaccredited district to the accredited district when a student elects to transfer pursuant to the statute.4

[399 S.W.3d 821]

SLPS became unaccredited in 2007, and thereafter it was operated by the special administrative board of the transitional school district.5 After SLPS became unaccredited,6 some parents sought to have their children obtain section 167.131 transfers and tuition payments from the transitional school district that would enable them to attend school in Clayton. Both SLPS and Clayton objected to enforcement of section 167.131 to allow the plaintiffs' children to attend Clayton.

In Turner, plaintiff parents and children who resided in the transitional school district sought to obtain section 167.131 tuition payments from the transitional school district to pay for the plaintiffs' children's education in Clayton. The plaintiffs asserted that, pursuant to section 167.131, their children were entitled to attend Clayton or one of 21 other accredited school districts in adjoining St. Louis County. The trial court entered judgment in favor of the defendant school districts, and the plaintiffs appealed.

This Court in Turner reversed the judgment, holding that section 167.131 was applicable to the transitional school district and required that it pay—as the transitional school district operating in the place of the unaccredited SLPS—the plaintiffs' children's tuition costs for attending Clayton. The case was remanded for further proceedings.

B. Proceedings after remand

By the time this case was heard on remand, only one Turner plaintiff—Gina Breitenfeld—and her two children remained in the litigation. 7 The trial court allowed taxpayers from Clayton and a taxpayer from SLPS to intervene in this case to raise arguments that section 167.131 violates the Hancock Amendment.8

[399 S.W.3d 822]

A consolidated trial on remand was held to address: Breitenfeld's petition 9 seeking a declaration that her two children were entitled under section 167.131 to have their Clayton tuition paid by the transitional school district during certain periods of time when SLPS was unaccredited; the Clayton intervenors' petition seeking a declaratory judgment that section 167.131 is unenforceable because it violates the Hancock Amendment; the SLPS intervenor's petition seeking a declaratory judgment that section 167.131 is unenforceable because it violates the Hancock Amendment; Clayton's counterclaim against Breitenfeld for payment of tuition costs; other pleadings raising Hancock Amendment challenges; and pleadings asserting that the defendant school districts need not comply with the mandates of section 167.131 based on a defense of “impossibility of compliance.”

The defendant school districts' evidence on remand related largely to their operational costs and their projected costs associated with complying with section 167.131. Data based on actual section 167.131 transfers was not available at trial because no section 167.131 transfers from SLPS to an accredited school district in St. Louis County actually had occurred.10

The school districts' evidence at trial instead included information from the Jones Report, a 2011 statistical study estimating the likelihood that students would transfer under section 167.131 from the unaccredited SLPS to certain adjoining St. Louis County school districts. The report calculated the financial impact the estimated transfers would have on the school districts. 11 It estimated that approximately 15,740 students from the unaccredited SLPS would seek section 167.131 transfers.12 SLPS and the St. Louis County

[399 S.W.3d 823]

school districts relied on the Jones Report for developing budget projections and for strategic planning related to prospective student enrollment changes from section 167.131 SLPS transfers.13

The SLPS superintendent testified at trial that the estimated section 167.131 tuition and transportation costs for the student transfers estimated by the Jones Report could be as high as $262 million.14 The superintendent stated that it would be impossible for SLPS to maintain or improve its current attendance and academic achievements and adequately educate remaining students if the transfers estimated in the Jones Report occurred. 15

The trial court also heard testimony from a Clayton school administrator who stated that the estimated student transfers would more than double Clayton's current enrollment of approximately 2,500 students. The acting superintendent for Clayton testified that the district believed that it would be impossible without years of advance planning and construction to accommodate the 3,567 transfer students that the Jones Report estimated would enroll in Clayton under section 167.131.16

C. The trial court's findings

The trial court agreed with the intervenors that section 167.131 was unenforceable

[399 S.W.3d 824]

as to the defendant school districts because it was an “unfunded mandate” in violation of the Hancock Amendment. See Miller v. Dir. of Revenue, 719 S.W.2d 787, 788–89 (Mo. banc 1986) (discussing the determinations for finding an “unfunded mandate” in violation of the Hancock Amendment). Consistent with the precedent for determining if a statute imposes an “unfunded mandate,” the trial court considered whether section 167.131 requires any new or increased activities for local government entities, and it weighed the funding attached to the statute. See id. The trial court emphasized that there was no evidence presented that section 167.131 included funding to effectuate the student transfers required pursuant to the statute. After it determined that the section 167.131 “mandate did not include any State funding,” the trial court undertook to decide whether section 167.131 requires a new or increased activity or service of the defendant school districts, as compared with their state-mandated activities or services as of the date that voters adopted the Hancock Amendment on November 4, 1980.

In weighing this question, the trial court examined section 167.131, RSMo 1978, which provided that a student who completed the work of the highest grade offered in a school district that did not maintain an approved high school that offered work until grade 12 was entitled to have the resident school district pay tuition for the student to attend “an approved high school in another district of the same or an adjoining county ... where work of one or more higher grades is offered.” Seesec. 167.131, RSMo 1978. This former version of section 167.131 also stated that “each pupil shall be free to attend the school of his or her choice” when transferring under the statute, but it indicated that no school shall be required to admit any pupil.See id. (emphasis added).17

The trial court determined that “the passage of [section] 167.131 RSMo (2000) created new and increased activity or service for school districts over and above what was required in 1980 under the old transfer law.” It stated:

[Section] 167.131 RSMo (2000) created the requirement for unaccredited school districts to pay tuition and transportation regardless of any work completed by the transferring students. It also expanded an unaccredited district's activity by requiring payment for a new population of students, from kindergarten to 8th grade. It also appears that this law created a state-administered, district-wide scheme of accreditation that did not exist in 1980.

The trial court concluded that the current...

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13 practice notes
  • Empire Dist. Elec. Co. v. Coverdell, No. SD 35226
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • December 5, 2019
    ...trial court. See Frost v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co. , 813 S.W.2d 302, 303 (Mo. banc 1991) ; see also Breitenfeld v. Sch. Dist. of Clayton , 399 S.W.3d 816, 836-37 (Mo. banc 2013) (the intervenors were properly permitted to intervene despite appellant’s argument that the underlying litigation "h......
  • State v. Brown, 20190254
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Utah
    • April 29, 2021
    ...courts and cannot conjure jurisdiction." (citation omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted)); Breitenfeld v. Sch. Dist. of Clayton , 399 S.W.3d 816, 820, n.3 (Mo. 2013) (en banc) (determining no proper basis for invoking the court's exclusive jurisdiction and noting that "[t]his Court ma......
  • State v. Brown, No. 20190254
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Utah
    • April 29, 2021
    ...courts and cannot conjure jurisdiction." (citation omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted)); Breitenfeld v. Sch. Dist. of Clayton, 399 S.W.3d 816, 820, n.3Page 5 (Mo. 2013) (en banc) (determining no proper basis for invoking the court's exclusive jurisdiction and noting that "[t]his Cou......
  • Loveland v. Austin, ED 108859
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • April 13, 2021
    ...it, it is against the weight of the evidence, or it erroneously declares or applies the law." Breitenfeld v. School Dist. of Clayton, 399 S.W.3d 816, 837 (Mo. banc 2013) (quoting Johnson v. State, 366 S.W.3d 11, 20 (Mo. banc 2012) ); see also Britt, 577 S.W.3d at 139. "Motions to intervene ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
9 cases
  • Empire Dist. Elec. Co. v. Coverdell, No. SD 35226
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • December 5, 2019
    ...trial court. See Frost v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co. , 813 S.W.2d 302, 303 (Mo. banc 1991) ; see also Breitenfeld v. Sch. Dist. of Clayton , 399 S.W.3d 816, 836-37 (Mo. banc 2013) (the intervenors were properly permitted to intervene despite appellant’s argument that the underlying litigation &q......
  • Kirk v. State, No. SC 95752
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • June 27, 2017
    ...See Armstrong-Trotwood, LLC v. State Tax Comm'n, 516 S.W.3d 830, 834 (Mo. banc 2017) ; Breitenfeld v. Sch. Dist. of Clayton, 399 S.W.3d 816, 820 n.3 (Mo. banc 2013).3 Rule 84.04(d) requires a point relied on to: (1) identify the challenged ruling, (2) "concisely state the legal reasons......
  • City of Normandy v. Greitens, No. SC 95624
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • May 16, 2017
    ...to increase the level of an existing activity beyond the level required on November 4, 1980." Breitenfeld v. Sch. Dist. of Clayton , 399 S.W.3d 816, 826 (Mo. banc 2013). The second prong is satisfied when "the State provides insufficient funding to offset the full costs of complia......
  • Barnett v. Columbia Maint. Co., No. ED 109008
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • June 29, 2021
    ...not a final judgment, we nonetheless review the circuit court's denial for abuse of discretion.4 Breitenfeld v. Sch. Dist. of Clayton , 399 S.W.3d 816, 837 (Mo. banc 2013) ; Britt , 577 S.W.3d at 145. Rule 52.12(b) permits intervention in three instances, only two of which are relevant here......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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