Leaders of Kansas City Public Schools told a Missouri Senate committee Tuesday that it’s too early to pull the plug on the unaccredited district.
State Sen. Jane Cunningham, a Republican from Chesterfield, is sponsoring legislation that would permanently dissolve the school district, carve it up and require neighboring districts to take over city schools. Additionally, the bill would allow students in unaccredited districts to attend parochial or private schools with scholarships funded partly by state tax credits.
Steve Green, interim superintendent of Kansas City Public Schools, told lawmakers that the district has only been unaccredited for less than a month and is already beginning to show progress. Kansas City lost its accreditation effective Jan. 1 for failing to reach state performance standards.
But Green said that since September, when the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to revoke the Kansas City district’s accreditation, the district has gone from meeting three targeted areas of achievement to five.
The district just needs more time, he said.
“It’s a long journey to get to fully accredited, but you’re looking at a district that is on the way,” Green said. “Kansas City’s students and the community itself would be severely harmed by any form of annexation.”
State Sen. Brian Nieves, a Washington Republican, said failing schools have been asking for “more time and more money” for years and have delayed any meaningful efforts to alter the state’s education system.
“What do you say to those of us up here who are tired of waiting?” he asked.
Green responded: “I can’t change the past. I can only talk about the present and the future.”
Green said the district probably is two to three years away from being fully accredited.
Andrea Flinders, president of the Kansas City Federation of Teachers and School-Related Personnel, said none of the proposals being considered would do anything to address the problems that plague families that attend its schools, most of which stem from poverty.
If lawmakers want to improve urban schools, they must address community needs, she said.
“Our community is failing our kids,” Flinders said.
The Senate General Laws Committee adjourned Tuesday without taking a vote. It is expected to take up Cunningham’s bill, along with other education-focused bills sponsored by Democratic Sen. Victor Callahan of Independence, next week.