Bill would open private school records to public schools

KU Statehouse Wire Service

Anna Purduski, a Topeka High School junior, worries that she won’t be able to graduate. She has been working with her high school counselor but not to improve her grades. Instead, she’s trying to obtain her records from freshman and sophomore year.

If the Kansas City, Kan., private school Purduski transferred from doesn’t release her records, her senior year would look substantially different. She could be forced to retake freshmen-level classes while her peers are taking college-prep courses.

“It’s really affecting my life because I really want to go to college,” Purduski said.

A bill introduced to the Senate Education Committee on Thursday could solve that problem for Purduski and other transfer students.

Purduski’s story prompted Senator Vicki Schmidt (R-Topeka) to introduce SB373, which would extend a law mandating public schools release records upon a student or parent’s request to all Kansas schools, including private and charter schools.

Schmidt emphasized that school records are the property of the student when transferring from a public school, but the state law does not cover private schools.

Greg Fallon, Purduski’s counselor at Topeka High, spoke in favor of the bill at Thursday’s hearing. He said although this issue is uncommon in his experience, it is a serious issue for students who are unable to obtain records.

According to Purduski, her former high school is withholding records because of tuition owed.

“I support a private school’s efforts to collect fees owed by parents, however a student’s education and future should not be held hostage as a negotiating tool,” Fallon said in his written testimony.

Schmidt compared it to a patient transferring to another doctor whose medical records would be transferred regardless of whether the patient owed money or not.

Mark Tallman, associate executive director of the Kansas Associate of School Boards, also spoke in favor of the bill.

“Prompt transfer of student records is important to providing placement and services to a student when transferring to the new school,” Tallman said in his written testimony.

The committee will address the bill again this week.