Since the State of Missouri began accred­it­ing pub­lic schools in the ear­ly 1990’s the Kansas City Public Schools has nev­er been ful­ly accred­it­ed. It has swung between unac­cred­it­ed and pro­vi­sion­al­ly accred­it­ed sta­tus. Many admin­is­tra­tions and school boards, includ­ing the cur­rent ones, have com­mit­ted to gain accred­i­ta­tion. After six years of observ­ing board meet­ings and oth­er dis­trict meet­ings, talk­ing with teach­ers, staff and par­ents, and review­ing data, Do the Right Thing for Kids has come to believe that out­side inter­ven­tion will be need­ed to turn around a sys­tem that has for so long been locked in a dys­func­tion­al cul­ture.

For the first time in decades there is a like­li­hood that sig­nif­i­cant change is com­ing. Two bills passed by the Missouri General Assembly and signed by the Governor impact the Kansas City Public Schools. One is rel­a­tive­ly sim­ple; it reduces the num­ber of mem­bers of the school board from 9 to 7, the size of most oth­er school boards, and shifts elec­tion times to the date of munic­i­pal elec­tions. The law, which will take effect in 2019, aims to make the board more man­age­able and to encour­age broad­er cit­i­zen par­tic­i­pa­tion. Its spe­cif­ic effects are yet to be seen, but it will clear­ly change polit­i­cal dynam­ics.

The sec­ond bill could have much more dra­mat­ic impact. It allows the Missouri Commissioner of Education to take con­trol of the dis­trict when the law goes into effect August 28 if sub­stan­tial improve­ment has not been achieved. District per­son­nel refer to exceed­ing the cut-off of 70 per­cent­age points on the Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP) eval­u­a­tion scale as the hur­dle. Test results, one of the major cri­te­ria, are due in August. The Commissioner and State Board of Education, how­ev­er, have dis­cre­tion to take oth­er fac­tors into account when decid­ing the fate of the dis­trict. The Commissioner has said that she is look­ing for “marked improve­ment.” What that means remains to be seen. Several cours­es of action are pos­si­ble:

  • The school board and admin­is­tra­tion could be left in place, but with close mon­i­tor­ing by the State and a dead­line of three years (or two years under some cir­cum­stances) for achiev­ing accred­i­ta­tion or being tak­en over.
  • The Commissioner could lapse the cor­po­rate orga­ni­za­tion, appoint a spe­cial gov­ern­ing board of at least five peo­ple, and the board would select a CEO who would man­age the dis­trict.
  • The state could assign schools to sur­round­ing dis­tricts, divide the dis­trict into new dis­tricts, or devel­op alter­na­tive struc­tures.

There are oth­er pro­vi­sions in the bill that are less fre­quent­ly dis­cussed. These include con­tracts, teacher tenure and ter­mi­na­tion.

Under any course of action a series of com­mu­ni­ty meet­ings will be held to get cit­i­zen input. It should be not­ed, how­ev­er, that an almost end­less series of pub­lic meet­ings, plan­ning ses­sions, school and dis­trict advi­so­ry coun­cils, and oth­er get-togeth­ers have already been held. Whether more use­ful infor­ma­tion can be added is ques­tion­able. One thing that can be count­ed on is that there will be the usu­al jock­ey­ing for posi­tions on the appoint­ed board if that hap­pens, as well as dis­cus­sions about racial rep­re­sen­ta­tion issues and con­cern about jobs. We hope that some of the dis­cus­sion will be about what’s best for chil­dren.

Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is cur­rent­ly devel­op­ing a teacher per­for­mance eval­u­a­tion sys­tem with rat­ings based part­ly on test results.

We urge con­cerned cit­i­zens to read the two bills and be heard at pub­lic meet­ings where there will be an abun­dance of dis­trict employ­ees and friends urg­ing that the State to leave us alone because “local con­trol is the best solu­tion.” Question: Why hasn’t it worked for almost 40 years?

To find SB 125 and SB 258 go to www.senate.mo.gov and enter the bill num­ber in the bill find­er space. You can read the full bill or an offi­cial sum­ma­ry.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *