More Politics in Education

On KCPT over the weekend, Mayor James said, “education is a crucial part of the city”, so why does he only focus on the Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS)? While it does have its problems, the Hickman Mills School District has not been fully accredited for three years, yet you never hear mention of it from the Mayor. He did acknowledge that “there are 15 school districts in whole or in part in Kansas City” but that’s as far as he went.

Perhaps his focus is so narrow because he still has aspirations of being in charge of the KCPS. He did go on to say he “happens to favor doing away with school boards in some instances, and having basically a three headed leadership team”, though he didn’t say in what instances or who would make that decision. I think we can all take a pretty good guess since he also said that team would be a CEO (chief education officer), COO (chief operating officer), and CFO (chief financial officer); and, of course, they would be responsible to the mayor.

One of the greatest points regarding public schools is that they are locally controlled. On the same show, Michael McShane of the Show Me Institute pointed out that many residents don’t even know who their school board members are. The mayor rebutted with, “I’d be willing to bet most of you don’t know who your state rep is either. Or your state senator.” That’s a ridiculous statement. School districts are, in fact, quasi governmental bodies in and of themselves; and school board members are the closest elected officials to the people, representing the fewest number of constituents. That is the very definition of local control; yet, Mayor James says “in some [undefined] instances” he would like to do away with that.

If the Mayor truly cares about education for education’s sake and believes it is “a crucial part of the city”, perhaps he should leave other aspirations behind and broaden his focus by including other school districts in his discussions. Unless, of course, his definition of ‘the city’ isn’t that broad.

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