In a dramatic 5-4 vote this week, the Kansas City School Board decided to close almost half of the district's 61 schools. Aiming to stave off bankruptcy, the system will also lay off 700 employees, including about 285 teachers.
Enrollment in the public schools of Kansas City has fallen by half over recent years, to just 17,400 students, with many schools less than half full.
The school board vote followed contentious meetings as many in the community some saw the action as a further abandoning of the poor urban students. But District Superintendent John Covington argued that closing some schools could actually make "the remaining schools much stronger academically [and] is unquestionably the right thing to do."
Following a short introduction to the controversy, NewsHour Correspondent Ray Suarez talks to Superintendent Covington about next steps for the district.
"Now it's getting personal...This intentional continuation of the blighting of the urban core is scandalous and shameful." Sharon Sanders Brooks, Kansas City councilwoman
"I'm really sad. It's a great school. My son has had a lot of success here. It's a great learning environment." Nicole McNallan, parent
"It was a painful recommendation that I had to make, as the superintendent of schools. However when you consider the fact that not only are we draining our -- or spreading ourselves much too thin and unnecessarily draining the financial resources of the school district, when you consider the fact that 75 percent of our schools have 25 percent of the students or less who are performing at proficiency, meaning that they are meeting the state mandate on the state accountability test, that is shameful within itself." Superintendent John Covington, Kansas City
1. How are schools funded?
2. How has the recession affected schools?
3. What is the difference between a public school and a private school?
1. Do you agree with the School Board’s decision? Why or why not?
2. How did the School Board members come to their decision?
3. Who should decide which schools are closed and why?
4. NewsHour Correspondent Ray Suarez asked if local schools could be "central institutions of a neighborhood," what do you think he means by that?
Read the transcript: