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New Kansas City Public Schools Boundary Map Draws Criticism

Aviva Okeson-Haberman

Kansas City Public Schools isn’t getting the new district boundary map it endorsed.

On Wednesday, the Kansas City Board of Election Commissioners said it would instead go with a new boundry map drawn by consultants.

The school district has been in the process of complying with a state law that requires the nine-member board to eliminate one subdistrict and one at-large seat by next April.

The effort has political implications. Because all seven seats will be open at the same time, voters could install an all-new school board. That’s injected uncertainty in a time of relative stability for the district, which is on the cusp of regaining full accreditation from the state.

The Election Board hired consultants to redraw the sub-districts, and proposed different maps for the board to consider.

All three maps proposed by the Election Board's consultants moved neighborhoods east of Troost into subdistricts with neighborhoods west of Troost, which had been the traditional western boundary for two of the current subdistricts.

This concerned some community members, so the school board ultimately decided to propose its own map.

On Wednesday, the Election Commission said the consultants' map it chose was similar to the map KCPS endorsed and the map that the board approved.

Casey Martin, chairman of the Board of Election Commissioners, said the map chosen by the board had districts that were more equal in population. He also said both maps have three districts with a majority African-American population.

Stacey Daniels-Young, a community psychologist and former director of the Jackson County Community-Backed Anti-Violence Tax who helped create the KCPS-favored boundaries, disagreed with that assessment.

“If you are looking at ethnic percentages in districts, they might be similar. But if you look at how the maps are drawn and then, if you actually got the voter turnout, you would see that they are different,” Daniels-Young said.

Melissa Robinson, the head of the KCPS school board, also critized the new map, saying minority voters won’t have as much of a say in who represents them.

“It’s going to be disruption to the Kansas City Public Schools," Robinson said. "One of the major reasons why we presented our community's feedback was so we can have continuity of the direction that’s been set.”

Martin agreed there would be disuprtion.

“I think it’s a naturally disruptive process because the state legislature mandated that we reduce the number of board members," Martin said. "And by doing so we’re forced to make some tough decision about where boundary lines are drawn."

Aviva Okeson-Haberman is a KCUR news intern.

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