Kansas City Superintendent John Covington this afternoon unveiled his sweeping plan to close half of the district’s schools, redistribute grade levels and sell the downtown central office.
Covington presented his proposal to the school board in advance of a series of forums next week where the community will get to weigh in on what would be the largest swath of closures in district history, as well as a major reorganization.
“Folks, it’s going to hurt,” Covington told an overflow audience. “It’s going to be painful, but if we work together, we’re going to get through it.”
Covington wants to be able to complete the public debate and present a final plan for a vote by the board at its Feb. 24 meeting.
The board and the community have a lot to digest over the next 10 days.
The proposal calls for:
•29 to 31 of the district’s 60 schools would close, including Westport High and Central Middle.
For decades critics of the public schools have been saying, “You can’t solve educational problems by throwing money at them.” The education establishment and its supporters have replied, “No one’s ever tried.” In Kansas City they did try. To improve the education of black students and encourage desegregation, a federal judge invited the Kansas City, Missouri, School District to come up with a cost-is-no-object educational plan and ordered local and state taxpayers to find the money to pay for it.
Kansas City spent as much as $11,700 per pupil–more money per pupil, on a cost of living adjusted basis, than any other of the 280 largest districts in the country. The money bought higher teachers’ salaries, 15 new schools, and such amenities as an Olympic-sized swimming pool with an underwater viewing room, television and animation studios, a robotics lab, a 25-acre wildlife sanctuary, a zoo, a model United Nations with simultaneous translation capability, and field trips to Mexico and Senegal. The student-teacher ratio was 12 or 13 to 1, the lowest of any major school district in the country.
The results were dismal. Test scores did not rise; the black-white gap did not diminish; and there was less, not greater, integration.
The Kansas City experiment suggests that, indeed, educational problems can’t be solved by throwing money at them, that the structural problems of our current educational system are far more important than a lack of material resources, and that the focus on desegregation diverted attention from the real problem, low achievement.
Former Madison School District Superintendent Art Rainwater served in Kansas City prior to his time in Madison.
This is rather astonishing, given the amount of money spent in Kansas City.