Saturday, November 03, 2007

How Should I Vote on School Secession?

Believe it or not, I don't have a fully formed opinion on how to vote on the secession of portions of the Kansas City Metropolitan School District. At the moment, I'm leaning against it, but I would welcome input from those with better rationales than my own.

Here's why I'm leaning against it. First off, the effort smacks of racism and segregationist thought. Why is it only the white schools that are the subject of this effort? If the Independence School District is so wonderful and high-achieving, why aren't we discussing merging the KCMSD into it?

Second, I think Victor Callahan is a pandering idiot. The legislation he shoved through the General Assembly is a horribly sloppy botched effort, raising far more questions than it resolves. The only thing it really, truly accomplishes is establishing Victor Callahan's bona fides as a hero of the redneck vote. His legislation doesn't provide any guidance as to how this secession will be accomplished, or who will pay for the land acquisition, or any of the particulars of how this complicated transaction will work out. Victor Callahan was far more interested in pandering to the racist segregationists than anything else.

Third, the Kansas City Metropolitan School District Board opposes the move, and, since I helped elect them, I'm inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Okay, there are three reasons I'm leaning toward voting against the secession.

Did you notice what's missing?

None of my reasons is built upon what's best for the children of Kansas City. Ideally, that would be my starting and finishing point, but I really don't know what is best here. Would the KCMSD do better with a smaller scope? Would the decline in diversity damage the district further?

So, commenters, I welcome your thoughtful input. I'm leaning toward voting against it, but I'm not pleased with my rationale. Help me.

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37 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Only the white schools are part of it because they're the ones in Independence. I'm not sure what I'm going to do on this one either, but as much as I dislike Callahan, they're not cherrypicking schools based on the racial profile of the students. It's odd that these schools are in the KC district in the first place, and it's just a remnant of that area being unincorporated in earlier days.

11/03/2007 2:34 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Anonymous - I knew that the schools do happen to be in Independence, but if we're amending boundaries, there's no reason to limit ourselves to municipal boundaries. While there's a geographical tidiness about it, there's no logical reason that I can see. The KCMSD doesn't encompass all of KC, either. Will the real estate developer behind the Independence initiative next be pushing for all of KC to be in the KCMSD? Somehow, I doubt it.

It feels to me like the desire to have the border of the school districts suddenly match the municipal borders is more of an excuse than a reason.

11/03/2007 3:22 PM  
Anonymous travelingal said...

What has diversity done for the kids who live in Independence and go to KcMo schools? What has diversity done for the kids in Kc Mo schools who have Independence classmates? Has anyone benefited? All I hear about the Kc Mo schools is that they are really bad so has diversity helped the students..any of them? I'm asking only because I don't know..I don't live in either place..but it would have an impact on my decision making.

How much "better" are the Independence schools? Do they score considerably higher on tests?

What is it going to mean to the Kc Mo schools to lose these students to Independence other than money?
Will they get worse? How? Will the loss of tax revenue damage the Kc Mo schools and their ability to get federal funding, good teachers, supplies etc.? How?

I'd have to ask myself a lot of questions before voting, as you are doing Dan.

And, then I'd ask myself the hardest question. If it was my kid and he had an opportunity for a better schooling, what would I want? Should I consider my own good or the good of the community?

Where did you send your kids to school, Dan? I don't want an answer. I just want you to think about it.

11/03/2007 5:00 PM  
Blogger Ambitious Fledgling said...

How about we do this to help you determine what decision to make... pretend that your child is in a school district that could potentially be an Independence school district v. KC (which makes sense because you live in Independence). With that hypothetical in mind.. how would you vote? Always pretend it is your child. It keeps you honest. =)

11/03/2007 5:01 PM  
Blogger Ambitious Fledgling said...

lol Guess we were thinking the same thing at the same time =)

11/03/2007 5:02 PM  
Anonymous Bren said...

One other way to look at this, is what's best for all the kids?

Does moving these kids to the Indy school cause the overall KCMO school district to become even worse -- and potentially cause even more crippling of our school system for the kids that don't get out? Is that fair to do to them?

I don't know the answer, but there may be more to consider here than the kids actually involved...

11/03/2007 7:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't understand why this is even debateable. For 30 years the KCMSD (which was once the best in the state) has been a disaster. Does anyone remember how KC, Mo thrived before the change? Does anyone remember how the Kansas suburbs did not thrive before the change?

If secession is not the answer, then what is? Darn it. If you oppose this, then put a viable solution on the table. The status quo hurts all kids - and KC.

11/03/2007 8:16 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

This is perhaps the most difficult decision in recent memory.

I'll argue both sides and three different perspectives:

(1) If I was a parent with a my Kids in the KCMSD, and they had a chance to be under the Independence school district, it's simply a no-brainer "yes". Hands down Independence is a better run school district. with a much brighter future.

(2) It's hard for me to argue on behalf of the KCMSD school district, so I'll argue on behalf ofthe kids there instead. One of the tests I apply is "if everybody did it, would the world be a better place". Well, if all of the neighboring school districts annexed that little bit near them, just like Independence is doing, then the only thing left would be a small core of economically poor African-Americans and Latinos that from 31st street to downtown, going a mile or two east and west.

Keep in mind there are 13 school districts that cover KCMO.

The school system would have no chance of being successful - and we need the best public education we can deliver to economically and socially isolated children so they can change things for themselves. I don't think that can happen if everybody with the means that can, bails.

Let me make sure I'm clear here: we have a sacred responsbility to provide and excellent PUBLIC education for all of our children. That seems like a meaningless pontification, but in the context I'm drawing -- it may be in jeopardy, and I think we can all agree with that.

We've created an African-American archipelago east of Troost, and the isolation began with the government creating 30 year mortgages only for white people; blockbusting; school district boundaries being drawn at Troost. It continues starting with the insurance industry and consequently banks and other financial institutions penalizing areas and furher isolating them.

So, this school system annexation issue isn't motivated out of racism, but it certainly reflects the outcomes and requisite dynamics of racism.

(3) Maybe this annexation will help the KCMSD focus on getting in right for the remaining kids in he system. Maybe this will scare them into making the changes that are truly necessary for the KCMSD to succeed.

And I quite frankly don't have the slightest basis to choose the reasoning in (1), (2) or (3).

11/03/2007 9:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Here's why I'm leaning against it. First off, the effort smacks of racism and segregationist thought".

"The only thing it really, truly accomplishes is establishing Victor Callahan's bona fides as a hero of the redneck vote".

Dan, you need to look at what you are saying.

11/03/2007 11:18 PM  
Blogger whistleblower said...

I'm not so sure that restructuring would have much of an impact either way.

I recently watched a National Geographic story about feral children. Not that any of the children in these schools would be considered feral, but it did address the ability to learn as having a strong relation to the experiences of a child during their early, more formative, years.

If a child doesn't get the necessary life experiences at an early stage, could all the restructuring of the schools be for naught? Could the real trick to improved schools and scoring be a need for change pre-school?

Are children really born smarter, or do they just get a more diverse input of life experiences shortly after birth?

11/04/2007 7:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Mainstream laid it out well. I will only add that the real issue here is not race. The issue is class.

Though forced diversity (of different classes and/or races) can be a positive thing, let's run a cost/benefit here. The costs are obvious: KCMSD is an unaccredited disaster; kids in the KCMSD are not learning; KC, Mo no longer attracts those wanting to raise a family; property values are depressed; and more. The purported benefit - diversity - is non-existent, because those with means either send their kids to private schools or have fled to Kansas.

How can anyone sincerely defend the KCMSD and the status quo? Time for change, friends.

11/04/2007 8:02 AM  
Anonymous travelingal said...

I just read that Funk sent one kid to Bishop Miege and another is graduating from Lincoln Prep and he is voting against moving the kids to Independence School District.

So, he's had a good job, could afford to send his kid to private school, has an intact family and one kid excelled at Lincoln which is certainly not the norm in Kc...

Hmmmm. Me thinks this smacks of do what you say, not what you do.

11/04/2007 10:46 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Methinks he put both kids into public schools K-8, and one K-12. Methinks he has a lot more knowledge of the school district than most. Methinks that everyone in KC and Independence has a legitimate concern with this issue. Methinks somebody is taking a cheap shot from Johnson County. Methinks Mark and I and childless couples and families with kids in private schools and everyone else has a right and a responsibility to form an opinion and vote in this election. That's what methinks.

People above asked what I would do with my kids. Well, I moved from the Shawnee Mission School District to the KCMSD when our kids were approaching school age. Both kids went to the KCMSD through 8th grade, and we had a truly fantastic experience. Yes, there were a few bad teachers, and several frustrations, but the education my kids got was top-notch, and the cultural experience was rich.

It so happened that at the time the district lost its accreditation, my eldest was given a great opportunity that made Pembroke affordable. After much agonizing, he went there, and it was a great place for him. His sister went to St. Theresa's, which also offered unique advantages for her.

I remember people acting like I was committing child abuse for having our kids in the KCMSD. I remember people complimenting us on our "bravery". I learned that 99% of people have no idea about the real strengths and weaknesses of the district. I've learned that the KCMSD is a bogey-man for most of the area - an imaginary nightmare born of ignorance and fear. It makes people insane enough to believe that "feral children" are relevant to the conversation.

So, Travelingal, I suppose I am a hypocrite in your eyes, for being in the School District for many years, and then for making a family choice about what would be best for the continuing education of two of the best and smartest children I know. Your words sting, because I know my kids had opportunities that their classmates didn't get, and that offends my sense of social justice. I don't regret the choices made - both kids are doing wonderfully. I do regret that much of the voting populace will cast their votes based upon ill-informed, prejudiced views of the school district.

And I still don't know how to vote.

11/04/2007 11:12 AM  
Anonymous travelingal said...

Ooop, I guess I was a little out of line. I apologize.

You're right, everyone in the affected area has the right and responsibility to vote, and should. I do not have that right. I usurped the right to comment on your blog, however, being that it is a blog and not a vote and being that you didn't limit your request to only KcMo and Independence residents.

That aside, I stand by what I said, (phrased with a bit more thoughtfulness) based on what I would consider if it was my city and school district and if it was my mayor announcing his position. I believe the Mayor is the most influential person in the voting area and his lifestyle should be scrutinized in relation to his positions on important matters.

I have my own school woes to worry about..5 cities in one district with lopsided growth, needs and funding has people all upset here as well (not Shawnee Mission) and believe me the vitriol is sometimes shocking.

It would be nice if everyone had what they needed.

11/04/2007 3:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan -

There may be great teachers, great classes, even a few great schools in the KCMSD, but these facts are easily overshadowed by the lack of accreditation. Sorry, but the college admissions office will not listen to a detailed explanation of why, in spite of the district test scores and lack of accreditation, my child's experience in the KCMSD was stellar. The sad reality is that a college admissions officer looks at a student's grades in relation to the strengths/weaknesses of the district from which that student graduated.

Others' preconceived notions of the KCMSD, whether warranted or not, matter.

11/04/2007 4:13 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Seems like the kids I know who graduated from Lincoln are doing pretty well.

11/04/2007 4:20 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

LINCOLN PREP AND FERAL-NESS IN HUMANS

Let's clarify Lincoln Prep. You have to apply to Lincoln Prep, and it's the best school in the area for many reasons, but the MAJOR REASON IS THAT THEY GET TO CHOOSE WHO GOES THERE.

Kids that go to Lincoln Prep are either smart, have well-connected parents, or both. I hope my kids will be going there.

AND NOW LETS TALK ABOUT FERAL-NESS IN HUMANS.

I didn't know there were feral kids in KCMO - that explains alot. What I do know is that my wife and children, when they go to see my inlaws for a long weekend, maintain it takes only three days for their father and husband to return to HIS feral state.

When they return I'm unshaven, beer cans are littering the family room, CSPAN is blasting while I'm trying to stuff back issues of Maxim down to the bottom of the recycling bin.

11/04/2007 5:56 PM  
Blogger sophia said...

Count me in the "no clue" cateogory. I understand that people just want their kids to be educated. But whether this is a good call for educating more kids overall... I really don't know. I hoped that reading this would help me make up my mind, but it hasn't. Which makes this the most worthless post I've ever made on the internet. sorry.

11/04/2007 8:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hmmm...as long as we're in the same area, both our kids will go to academy lafeyette; later we'll deal with st. t's or pem. - should the map scores in the area high schools stay the same. should they significantly improve, we'll see.

i doubt it, however. 30 years of meddling have produced a school board at odds with the ciry, the kids and itself. it is unable to lure and keep qualified administrators longer than it takes for its egos to break out.

my vote would be to let those kids go and has nothing to do with any 'ism' you may have: incompetence is incompetence.

how long, really, do let the current system go on before you get smart and bring in pros?

11/04/2007 8:59 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

The pro's?

Let's outsource the school district to the Civic Council for at least three years.

Best thing we could do is actually let some proven managers get this thing back in shape, and support Tony Amato.

11/04/2007 9:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My deepest sympathy to all of you from a far away place.

11/04/2007 10:49 PM  
Anonymous anon said...

In part, this issue is about race. And look atthe recent "vote yes" mailer. See any black kids in the photo? I'm voting "no" and, yes, partly because itthis has been so heavily promoted by Victor Callahan.

11/05/2007 5:57 AM  
Blogger Xavier Onassis said...

Wow. Now that I've moved to Independence, I actually have some sort of stake in this issue.

To me, it's a no brainer.

1. The schools are in Independence, they should be part of the Independence school distrist.

2. The schools want to be part of the Independence school district and Kansas City is holding them hostage. That's not right.

3. Independence has great schools, Kansas city isn't even accredited.

Given all of the above, it makes absolutely no sense for those schools to remain where they never should have been.

11/05/2007 9:09 AM  
Blogger whistleblower said...

"It makes people insane enough to believe that "feral children" are relevant to the conversation."

Nice cheap shot Dan.

Could the fact that your children did well in school have anything to do with the fact that you did a good job as a parent?

Good parenting skills are usually passed down to their children. Can good parenting skills be taught? I hope so. Should the parenting skills of those whose children are not doing well in school be considered? I think so.

No one claimed that any student in the KCMSD is feral, or should be considered feral, but the information derived from the study of feral children may be a relevant factor in determining the child’s ability to learn.

The interactions with a child before entering school may be more of a factor in the education a child receives than the teachers who attempt to teach that child.

Maybe the "quick fix" is not the answer to children receiving a better education, or at least, not the answer to better grades.

Not everything is about spending money or blaming someone else.

11/05/2007 9:29 AM  
Blogger Eric said...

I'm voting for it even though I live in the KCMO district. It just makes sense to align city and school boundaries. Yes, I agree that all of KCMO should be in a single district, but that isn't the question on the ballot. If you feel strongly about that, then start your own petition.

I also agree Callahan is an ass, but I'm not letting that cloud the issue.

I think Independence is a great city and I want to see it prosper. As an older suburb it is beginning to deal with many of the issues of urban decay, and changing the school situation is a big way to deal with that.

And to be honest, if my own neighborhood had a chance to leave the KCMO district I would surely vote for it. Perhaps this will be a wakeup for the remaining part of the district to finally put the politics aside and work on actual education.

11/05/2007 10:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is secession being considered anywhere else in the KCMSD? Eric is right. Other areas might consider leaving KCMSD, even if those areas are in the KC city limits. It is possible under the law. Good idea or bad idea?

11/05/2007 3:54 PM  
Anonymous bluemom said...

Vote yes. Support Annexation. Send a meesage to the school board that you voted for that they are doing a poor job of fighting for the future of the Kansas City.

*disclaimer
I moved to Independence, when I became a mom. proud Parent of a Blackburn Bobcat

11/05/2007 4:19 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

This law is specifically written to facilitate moving the western part of Independence from the KCMO distric to the Independence district. It does not apply to any other part of the KCMO district.

However, any part of the KCMO district already has the write to secede if approved by voters. The difference here is that the new law allows the area east of I-435 to secede even if KCMO votes against it.

11/05/2007 4:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eric has a point. Other areas within KCMSD may be considering seceding as well. The law seems to allow it, even for schools within the city limits. Good idea or bad idea?

11/05/2007 5:36 PM  
Blogger Ambitious Fledgling said...

If my child was one year older, and even though I live in Independence, he would be attending Kansas City school district. Perhaps I am a little ill informed as far as KC schools go...and perhaps I'm less educated than most who comment here, but damnit, I don't want my son in a school district that can't even get accredited. It poses an issue.

11/05/2007 8:41 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Is it my imagination or is this thread shrinking?

11/05/2007 8:52 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

There's a problem between blogger comment input page and comment/post page - input page displays more comments...

11/05/2007 8:55 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Blogger is being a real B##ch tonight, same as last night. Sorry for the difficulties.

11/05/2007 9:09 PM  
Blogger KC Sponge said...

I'm voting against it, Dan.

The district is in the state it is because people keep fleeing. So it's not their problem anymore.

These people have resources and a voice that is being heard - let them use it to help fix the problem. The last solution that should be used is one that further segregates and separates our city.

Our 'urban' problems are one of the entire metro area - and until we look at it that way and address situations as a metropolitan issue, we risk losing the little advancement we have made since the days of redlining and racism. This is a big enough issue to really start conversations of change. But not if we let people think they've won by putting up a bigger wall between themselves and the city.

I have a sickening feeling that it will pass and we will lose this opportunity. But I won't be a part of it.

11/06/2007 11:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Simply put, the Independence parents don't want the blacks in Kansas City to taint their white kids. Removing the KCMSD from those schools means removing the black students that are bussed in and the black administration downtown.

I will be most definitely be voting against this racist crap. I hope you do too.

11/06/2007 2:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is not about racism. Darn it. This is about what is best for my children. A failing district or one that works? The kid sitting next to my child can be green for all I care. I just want my child to receive a decent education.

11/07/2007 7:09 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

For some, it isn't about racism, and I totally understand that. For some, it definitely is about racism. For most of us, it's a complicated mess involving racism and involving kids who might or might not have a shot at a better education, but possibly coming, in some ways, at the expense of the rest of the kids in the district.

I wound up voting against it, because I think the way it was done was awful, but I'm not disturbed that it passed. I sincerely hope it works out for the best for kids in both districts.

11/07/2007 7:15 AM  

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