Thursday, March 11, 2010

School's Out

I don't live in Kansas City anymore.  I haven't called it home for more than a decade.  But I follow the events there with interest.  Last night something happened that will probably shock the nation, but really didn't surprise me.  The Kansas City, Missouri School District voted to close 26 schools.  That's more than 40 percent of its schools.

I started covering the mess that is the KCMO school district back in 1980.  At the time it was battling a desegregation lawsuit and white flight was already underway.  The school board which functioned like a bunch of spoiled three year olds, was chewing up and spitting out superintendents every year or two.  By the end of the 80's the federal courts had stepped in throwing hundreds of millions of taxpayers dollars at the the city's tired and failing schools.  The district went from having serviceable Chevys as schools to Cadillacs.  Many buildings needed much needed remodeling but they didn't need to become palaces.  It did nothing to stop white flight.

According to the Kansas City Star about 18,000 students attend school in the KCMO district.  That's about the same number that went there in 1889, yep 1889!  The district at one time had more than 100,000 students. There's plenty of blame to go around but it falls squarely on the various school boards who plundered the district coffers for patronage or used their positions of power for their own personal agendas. 

It's a shame because I can remember when I was in high school the KCMO schools were still considered pretty good.  Like a lot of major urban areas the city itself is in danger of imploding.  The suburbs are doing just fine thank you but the city itself, a city I chose to live in, is in a shambles.  The Mayor is a buffoon and if the movers and shakers that support the city, The Halls, the Kempers, etc; don't do something soon to redirect what's going on, Kansas City will mirror the disaster that is Detroit.

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