No one appeared at a Jefferson City hearing today to testify against a bill that would speed Missouri's ability to take some charge of unaccredited Kansas City schools. There was support from a teachers’ association and the Missouri School Boards’ Association.
The depiction of city schools as “among the worst in the nation” by the US Education Secretary and Kansas City’s mayor made bold headlines but slipped quietly aside as the mayor briefed the City Council today.
The Kansas City, Missouri school district has been shedding students over the past 40 years – from 70,000 in the 1970s to less than 17,000 today. Some are worried about another exodus when the district officially loses accreditation on January 1st. Missouri law allows students to transfer to an accredited district, with tuition and transportation paid for by the unaccredited district. Area districts are still wrangling with transfer policies.
Kansas City Mayor Sly James and School Board President Airick Leonard West committed to a series of community conversations over the next few months about the governance of the school district. Neither has endorsed the idea of a mayoral takeover of schools, but they say no idea is off the table.
Mayor James says he began convening people to talk about the school district after Missouri education commissioner Chris Nicastro told him that it was difficult to do anything in Kansas City because it's so divided.