Why isn’t investing in local schools worth it?

When the argument is made that investing in our local schools isn’t a realistic solution, that we should instead continue to invest in new, separate, “better” schools, what does that say of the 26,000 students and their families that have chosen our public schools in Kansas City? Isn’t the education of these students worth investing in? Aren’t these families already invested?

And why are our schools still viewed as failing in the eyes of those who would advocate we need more schools when Kansas City is already saturated? Looking at variables like MAP and ACT scores, graduation rates, and cohort survival rates does not tell you everything you need to know about our schools.

What if you knew that standardized test scores are a more accurate predictor of student background than the quality of a school? What if you knew that students in poverty concentrated schools are more likely to drop out? What if you knew both district (40%) and charter (47%) schools suffer from high attrition rates at their high schools? What if you knew integrating schools is a way to improve student outcomes?

There are complex reasons families are still leaving Kansas City. They are seeking safer places to live, face high eviction rates, and seek out more socioeconomically integrated schools in the suburbs where communities rally around their schools.

Opening new schools is not going to change this about Kansas City. Charter schools have been opening and closing since 1999 and overall do not outperform district schools in our state. Opening more schools in Kansas City, while our school-aged population continues to shrink, is not the answer we need.

We need to look beyond our front door to support the education of all KC children and not just our own. We need to get to the place where we can acknowledge that our children are not so special and more deserving than others, are not deserving of a separate education. We need to get to the place where we can educate our children together.

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