Steffanie Rivers

*Since Brown vs. the Board of Education was passed in 1954, people have argued whether a school board can successfully educate its student body without combining classrooms and resources.

The Kansas City Board of Education has learned the hard way; Last week board members voted to shut down half of the schools in its district and eliminate 700 jobs at the end of this school year to cut the budget by $50 million.

A school system that once served 75,000 students during its peak has a current enrollment of 17,500. Even the superintendent admits his administration gets a failing grade when it comes to providing quality resources for the student body.

It’s a bold statement and a bold move. School districts around the country have been known to close a few schools to erase budget deficits, but Kansas City’s plan to close 30 of the 60 schools in its district is huge.  The last people I would expect to protest the move are parents and other residents, and here’s why:

Parents and other residents see first hand how their tax dollars are being (mis)used to fund delapitated forty year old school buildings, as well as worn textbooks children are forced to use because the school board can’t afford to buy new ones. And even Andrea Bocelli can see declining student rolls in certain neighborhood schools that were the alma mater to more than four times as many children two decades ago.

Where did the children go? Some have moved out of the urban school district to neighboring suburbs, while others now attend private schools. Fewer students mean less money from the state, another reason the school closings where inevitable.

One would think at the very least residents of Kansas City would want a better education for their future leaders while at the same time getting better services for their tax dollars. But all most parents have done is complain that proposed cuts will force little Johnny to make new friends at another school. Some older students have complained they will have to spend their senior year at (gasp!) a school in another neighborhood.

If the residents of Kansas City expect quality service from their board of education it starts with trimming the fat. That means underpopulated schools and underperforming teachers must go. If a school system doesn’t put children first what’s the point in having a school sytem at all?

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, Texas metroplex. Send questions, comments or requests for speaking engagements to Steffanie at [email protected]. And see the video version of her journal at youtube.com/steffanierivers.