Keep KC’s school board, but get it plenty of help

The Kansas City Star

No one wants to see the Kansas City School District recover just enough to regain provisional accreditation and limp along in wounded form for another decade or so.
Kansas Citians are looking for an administrative structure capable of running schools that meet the state’s expectations and prepare students for college and jobs.
With the school district scheduled to become unaccredited on Jan. 1, the Missouri Board of Education is contemplating structural changes. Chris Nicastro, the education commissioner, has spent considerable time trying to figure out what to recommend to the board when it meets Thursday and Friday. At one point, she asked members of the Kansas City school board if they’d be willing to step aside in favor of an appointed board. Most would prefer to remain in charge.
School board governance has not served Kansas City well in recent decades. Candidate choices have mostly been weak. Voter participation in elections has been abysmal. Boards have been factious and meddlesome.

Money And School Performance:
Lessons from the Kansas City Desegregation Experiment by Paul Cioti:

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.