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Kansas City Closes Half of Its Schools

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Kansas City, Mo., decided on Wednesday to shut nearly half of its schools in an attempt to stave off bankruptcy. At the raucous school-board meeting, parents screamed and children wept as the vote came down 5 - 4 in favor of shuttering 29 of the city's 61 schools.

kansas city school closings

Ronda Kaysen: "I feel like I have nothing," Prince Jones, a senior whose high school will close at the end of the year, told reporters. "I have no high-school legacy. I feel like I have nothing, nothing to go back to." 

A mother lamented that her children, ages 6 and 8, would go to school next year with
18-year-old high-school seniors. "I find that very inappropriate," Deneicia Williams told a local television station. "I don't feel my children will be safe." 

The school's superintendent, John Covington, attributes the problem to dwindling class size and dismal finances. The district is educating 18,000 students in 61 schools. Critics say the move will only further the urban blight that has a death grip on the city's urban center. Along with the closures, 700 employees will receive pink slips; 285 of them are teachers.

"This is the most painful vote I have ever cast [in ten years on the board]," board member Duane Kelly told the crowd of more than 200 people. Parents called for the firing of Covington.

The stunning news out of Kansas City comes in the wake of other grim news about the state of the country's educational system. Districts in 17 states have been scaling back the school week to four days to save cash. And a Rhode Island school district took the unusually Draconian step of shutting a failing school and firing the entire staff because test scores weren't improving. Barack Obama, once the darling of the teachers' unions, hailed the move for making teachers accountable.

What is going on with our schools? The economy is in a shambles, jobs are scarce. Now, more than ever, children need a good education -- and a consistent one. If we expect to have an educated workforce a generation from now, we must educate our children properly and with dignity.

The Kansas City school district is in serious financial trouble, but by shutting 29 schools, it leaves the city vulnerable to urban blight as hulking buildings languish empty and unused in the city's core. Children will now be crammed into the few remaining schools, bused further and lose the communities they've built over the years. The layoffs that come with the closures will only increase the dismal unemployment numbers.

The government bailed out the bankers because they argued that a failed banking industry would bring this country down. I'd argue that a failed educational system will do just the same.

next: Harlem on My Mind
5 comments so far | Post a comment now
Rachel March 11, 2010, 10:22 AM

18,000 students in 61 schools? If my public school math serves me correctly, that’s only 295 students per school. Might be reasonable for an elementary school (my son’s school has closer to 400), but a high school? What’s more alarming to me is that they’re closing nearly half of the schools at once, and I can’t imagine that they haven’t seen the writing on the wall for several years (I’m sure there wasn’t a mass exodus to the burbs occuring over one school year). This is poor planning. This is what the super and school board should be held accountable for, not the fact that a high school senior won’t have a legacy. I totally agree with the mom who is concerned about her young children going to school with high schoolers. Better planning could’ve avoided this.

Look, no one wants to close schools, but look at the numbers before you jump down my throat, and then think of all of the money that could be reallocated in a more meaningful manner to other programs for inner-city and at-risk youth, or even tutoring.

Jasmine March 11, 2010, 10:56 AM

I am from the midwest . The mere thought of the midwwest losing thier school system is dreadful .

tennmom March 11, 2010, 1:34 PM

I suppose the outraged parents could always pay to keep a school open.
What is this cash-strapped school system supposed to do, squeeze blood out of a turnip?

Wendi March 11, 2010, 4:03 PM

We are having problems in our city too, they are shutting down another school here. The funds for our schools have not been handeled properly and ufortunatly the kids have to pay for it. I would never allow my young kids to attend a school that has high school in it as well. Our city is getting lots of charter schools and they are doing great and have wonderful teachers that are happy at their jobs. Maybe there needs to be more of that going around.

Ten Tees January 8, 2011, 4:24 PM

Great post! Enjoyable to read. I have got one point to make about tee shirts.

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