For a national perspective on the recession’s impact on education, look at Kansas City, Mo., where the district plans to shut 28 out of 61 schools and cut 700 of 3,000 jobs to save $50 million and stave off bankruptcy.
What needs to be noted is that the district has shrunk over the years to 18,000 students, which is an average of 295 students per school. It’s been steadily losing students, so the closings, while emotional, may well be overdue.
The Kansas City school board voted to approve the closings Wednesday night in front of 200 upset parents.
According to the story on AJC.com:
Although other districts nationwide are considering closures as the recession ravages their budgets, Kansas City’s plan is striking. In rapidly shrinking Detroit, 29 schools closed before classes began this fall, but that still left the district with 172 schools. Most other districts are closing just one or two schools.
Emotional board member Duane Kelly told the crowd of more than 200 people Wednesday night, “This is the most painful vote I have ever cast” in 10 years on the board. Some chanted for the removal of the superintendent, while one woman asked the crowd, “Is anyone else ready to homeschool their children?”
Kansas City Councilwoman Sharon Sanders Brooks said the closure plan had prompted some housing developers to consider backing out of projects.
“The urban core has suffered white flight post-the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown v. the Board of Education, blockbusting by the real estate industry, redlining by banks and other financial institutions, retail and grocery store abandonment,” Brooks said to applause from the standing-room-only crowd. “And now the public education system is aiding and abetting in the economic demise of our school district,” she said. “It is shameful and sinful.”
Under the approved plan, teachers at six other low-performing schools will be required to reapply for their jobs, andthe district will try to sell its downtown central office. It also is expected to cut about 700 of the district’s 3,000 jobs, including about 285 teachers.
District officials face dozens of issues as they begin the massive job of downsizing the district — reworking school bus routes, figuring out what to do with vacant buildings and slashing its payroll.
Superintendent John Covington has spent the past month making the case to sometimes angry groups of parents and students that the closures are necessary.
Once the district had enough desegregation money to build such amenities as an Olympic-sized swimming pool. But the effort to use upscale facilities and programs to lure in students from the suburbs never worked quite as planned.
Covington has stressed that the district’s buildings are only half-full as its population has plummeted amid political squabbling and chronically abysmal test scores. The district’s enrollment of fewer than 18,000 students is about half of what the schools had a decade ago and just a quarter of its peak in the late 1960s.