09 June 2010

Kansas City School District

The funny thing about Kansas City School District is that it sure doesn't equal "Kansas City." Kansas City downtown is a teeeeeny tiny fraction of what is actually legally "Kansas City." I think "Kansas City" actually takes up about a third of the state and is mostly white and suburban. There is a good plenty of beautiful old farmland that is presently being torn up and made into boomboomboom little tract houses, big McMansions on teeeeny plots of land with teeeeny trees and matching mailboxes, and Mission-style apartments - mountainous! - that draw thousands.

I'm telling ya, Patrick has been invited to friends' houses that aren't even google map-able. Whole streets not marked. It doesn't help that street signs go missing or directions from 17-year-olds are sometimes a little fuzzy. But the "census" this year will no doubt show tons of people moving into Kansas City, even if those "tons of people" are certainly not urban.

Our school district is a suburban one, but we have about 3/4 as many students as the Kansas City School District. No one wants to live in the Kansas City School District. At all. Well, I suppose *someone* probably does, or there wouldn't be anyone left. The city is doing brilliant things like "condemning" whole blocks and handing them to developers who make posh condos that childless people move into for the extreme tax breaks that last 247 years. Better believe these are people who aren't coming to the downtown area for the great schools, or even the great neighbourhoods a few blocks over.

In my district, the new homes over the Kansas City line are advertised streetside with large "KANSAS CITY ADDRESS... (Name of Mrs. C's city here) SCHOOLS!!" banners. It's just real estate sales, but it's really another way of saying, "YOU DON'T HAVE TO SEND YOUR KIDS TO THE ICKY SCHOOLS IN KC... MOVE HERE INSTEAD!!"

Gazoodles of police officers, firefighters and the like live in this area because they're required to live in the city limits and technically... they are. Sure, they're violating the spirit of the law, but certainly not the letter and I can't say I wouldn't do the same thing if I were them. Certainly when we moved here, we knew we would NOT be buying/renting/going anywhere near places that were associated with Kansas City Public.

Did we "abandon" the district by not seriously shopping there? Do people who move out "abandon" the district? Here's an interesting article about KC Public's history that implies that sure, the administrators made a TWO BILLION DOLLAR MISTAKE (whoops), but the school system is in trouble because of those irresponsible publicly-educated teens who keep having sex. It's their fault even though we all know they learned about the different ways they COULD have sex in school (but shouldn't! but here's where you can get free condoms! don't do it! and take a pamphlet on birth control). And it's also a mess in KCSD because of those terrible middle class white people who just don't seem to understand that they have a social obligation to keep their kids in bad schools for the sake of the other children.

YES, many of these problems happened when desegregation happened. Imagine yourself back in the day. They used to send the black kids to crappy schools. Now they're desegregating and YOUR kid is going to be bussed to a crappy school. People are angry. Crowds of black people are throwing rocks at YOUR child and there is racial unrest. Are you racist for leaving?

I don't blame people for leaving. I know families who did back then when there were race riots and are glad they did. You can say all you want about "white flight," but the truth is, black folks are leaving in droves, too. Common sense has no colour line. You would just never know it to look at the news, but many of the newer students in our district are not white. Don't cover that story, though! Focus on the fact that even though we have a very big increase percentage-wise in minorities (well, maybe don't even mention that part! too divisive), that it's still an overwhelmingly white district out in the burbs, would ya?

The school districts in general seem to think they own the children within their boundaries, so it's hardly surprising that KCPS tried to keep some of the more suburban outlying portions of its district from defecting to Independence, or that it tried to incorporate more "white" areas to keep itself from becoming the "hollowed-out heart of the metro" that it is. There are hard feelings all around on that one.

"From Liberty to Lenexa, 'you don’t even have to say more than the words "Kansas City School District" to trigger an emotional reaction,' says William Worley, a local historian and author."

You've got that right. I think the KCSD is on the right track with massive school closures and actually working on educating the children rather than supporting a crumpled infrastructure. It's a shame they had to cut charters and other choices for children, and I think it will further contribute to an exodus from public education there. It seems to me that in extreme bad and urban districts, the focus has to be on providing a school and a teacher for all students, and nevermind the Latin lessons and marble floors. Don't like the basics? Leave. I think it's time to stop pretending that all public schools offer a "quality public education" for each child. They don't. All public schools are not the same, just like my homeschool is going to be different from someone else's.

Why pretend? The district already spent $2 billion pretending, and it didn't draw the elite crowd they wanted. Time to work with the children you actually have and quit wishing they were different.

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