Bleeding Kansas City

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The idiocy of our governmentally monopolized school system has been illustrated anew by a recent story about the Kansas City public schools. In fact, it is more of a reductio ad absurdum than a mere illustration.

Kansas City’s public school system made national news back in 1985. In that year, a federal judge with decidedly dictatorial leanings seized control of the district, declaring it to be segregated, and ordered the state to spend $2 billion to rehabilitate the schools, as well as to increase both student retention and performance.

And the money flowed like wine. The district bought such amenities as a “mock court” for one school, to help students learn about the legal system (rather daffy, considering that many of the students were already intimately acquainted with courts). It started a fencing program in another, built an Olympic-sized pool in a third, a recording studio for a fourth, and a six-lane indoor track for yet another one. All the while, the district kept losing students. Total enrollment went from 75,000 in the 1960s to 35,000 in the late 1990s down to less than 18,000 today.

Nevertheless, spending remained out of control. This year, the budget was $316 million, and the district overspent it by $15 million!

The AP now reports (March 7) that the school district is nearing bankruptcy. The school board has advanced a new plan to deal with the fiscal crisis: it says it wants to close almost half the schools and lay off 700 of the district’s 3,000 employees, including nearly 300 teachers. Predictably, many people in the district — especially parents — are screaming in disbelieving rage.

My advice? Close down the whole damn stinking district, divvy up the money in the form of vouchers (which would amount to over $17,000 per student), and let the hapless students find better schools.

Just a thought.

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