NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 3, 2007

The Topeka school board, of Brown v. Board of Education infamy, is once again in the public spotlight.  This time it is over a new proposition that would allow underperforming students in grades K-5 to attend a newly formed charter school, says Jason L. Riley, a member of the Wall Street Journal's Editorial Board.

The need for new options is the result of what backers -- including Cheryl Brown Henderson, a daughter of the lead plaintiff in the historic 1954 Supreme Court decision -- say are failing schools:

  • Between 1993 and 2005, per-pupil spending in Kansas rose 62 percent, yet black and Hispanic third-grade readers still trailed their white counterparts by more than 23 percentage points
  • Meanwhile, just over one half of 1 percent of K-12 students in the state are enrolled in charters, many of which are located in rural areas rather than the urban centers -- which disproportionately hurt minority students and families most.

Overall, the result is that students who've long been ill-served by Topeka's traditional public schools are being deprived of viable alternatives.  As Henderson puts it in her letter of support, "Accountability, access to equal educational opportunity and well-trained educators are guarantees that can be put in place by something as simple as considering all options."

Source: Jason L. Riley, "What's the Matter With Kansas?" Wall Street Journal, January 3, 2007.

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