NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

More Money Failed To Improve Schools In Missouri

October 28, 1999

Those who argue that what schools need in order to improve is more money may want to take a look at what happened in Kansas City, Mo., after an extra $2 billion was lavished on its school district over the past 15 years.

It all began in 1984, when a judge ordered Kansas City to spend more money on its schools in a federal desegregation lawsuit. The money was used for smaller classes, higher teacher pay, new and renovated buildings, magnet schools and before- and after-class enrichment programs.

Last year, the city spent $8,956 on each student -- well above the state's average.

  • Nevertheless, the district's graduation rate last year was just 56.5 percent -- compared to 77.4 for the state.
  • Ninety percent of 10th graders scored in the bottom two of five levels on the state's math test.
  • Just 11 percent of 7th graders were considered proficient readers -- compared to 31 percent for the state as a whole.
  • Nor has the test-score gap between black and white students -- one of the chief targets of the original desegregation suit -- budged.

So the Missouri Board of Education has voted unanimously to revoke the district's accreditation, effective at the end of the school year. Also, it put St. Louis schools -- which have turned in an equally dismal record -- on two-years' notice to turn around its schools.

Observers say it is no coincidence that parent in Kansas City are turning to charter and other schools.

  • Ten percent, or about 3,500 of the city's students, are attending one of 15 charter schools -- although none of the schools have been in existence more than a few months.
  • As a result of the state's decision, Kansas City parents will also be able to send their children to any public school in neighboring districts.
  • The Kansas City school board -- which will have to pay for their tuition and transportation -- is challenging the state in federal court.
  • St. Louis students won't have the option of charters, since the school board's hostility toward them has resulted in none being set up.

A voucher bill failed to pass the Missouri House of Representatives last year. It wouldn't have mattered much anyway, since the governor opposes vouchers.

Source: Anna Bray Duff, "Missouri School Board Gets Tough," Investor's Business Daily, October 28, 1999.


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