The Clinton Administration, taking a position in a school desegregation case for the first time, told the Supreme Court today that it planned to oppose the State of Missouri's request to have the Kansas City public schools declared successfully integrated and no longer in need of Federal court supervision...
The Justices have agreed to hear Missouri's appeal of a Federal appeals court ruling that requires the state to keep paying more than $200 million a year for an extensive magnet school program and other improvements aimed at overcoming the legacy of segregation. The case poses basic questions about how the success of a court-ordered integration plan is ultimately to be judged.
What's that? $200 million a year? Did that get your attention? Here's the Cato Institute's view about what happened, going back to the 1985 decision requiring continued federal oversight to alleviate the effects of segregation decades before:
For decades critics of the public schools have been saying, "You can't solve educational problems by throwing money at them." The education establishment and its supporters have replied, "No one's ever tried." In Kansas City they did try. To improve the education of black students and encourage desegregation, a federal judge invited the Kansas City, Missouri, School District to come up with a cost-is-no-object educational plan and ordered local and state taxpayers to find the money to pay for it.
Kansas City spent as much as $11,700 per pupil--more money per pupil, on a cost of living adjusted basis, than any other of the 280 largest districts in the country. The money bought higher teachers' salaries, 15 new schools, and such amenities as an Olympic-sized swimming pool with an underwater viewing room, television and animation studios, a robotics lab, a 25-acre wildlife sanctuary, a zoo, a model United Nations with simultaneous translation capability, and field trips to Mexico and Senegal. The student-teacher ratio was 12 or 13 to 1, the lowest of any major school district in the country.
The results were dismal. Test scores did not rise; the black-white gap did not diminish; and there was less, not greater, integration.
Even in late 1995 the failure was already evident, as this article points out:
The effort to integrate the Kansas City public schools is one of the most costly, misguided, and ineffectual programs ever undertaken in America in the name of racial equality. This billion-dollar effort has been so utterly a failure that only good can come of it. Catastrophe as complete as this may shake even a liberal’s confidence. This may well be the high-water mark of the astonishing efforts whites have made to build a society in the name of an illusory equality.So where is Kansas City today, after building and staffing these Taj Mahals of education?
Kansas City came to national attention ten years ago, when federal District Judge Russell Clark ordered the school district to build and staff the best, most expensive public schools in the country — perhaps in the world. They were to be so dazzlingly good that they would both lure white students out of their safe suburbs and raise black student achievement to the white level. Judge Clark was even willing to wield dictatorial power to get what he wanted, looting both the city and the state to fund the gold-plated schools that desegregation was thought to require.
Of course, the grand experiment failed. The wondrous schools were duly built but blacks learned no more in them than before. Whites stayed in the suburbs.
Kansas City was held up as a national example of bold thinking when it tried to integrate its schools by making them better than the suburban districts where many kids were moving. The result was one school with an Olympic-sized swimming pool and another with recording studios.
Now it's on the brink of bankruptcy and considering another bold move: closing nearly half its schools to stay afloat.
Schools officials say the cuts are necessary to keep the district from plowing through what little is left of the $2 billion it received as part of a groundbreaking desegregation case.
Two billion dollars, and nothing to show for it except the possibility of shuttered classrooms.
The ABC News story continues:
Kansas City appeared headed for a recovery when a federal judge in 1985 declared the district was unconstitutionally segregated. To boost test scores, integrate the schools and repair decrepit classrooms, the state was ordered to spend about $2 billion to address the problems.This is what happens when... ah, heck, I don't even need to say it, do I?
The district went on a buying spree that included a six-lane indoor track and a mock court complete with a judge's chamber and jury deliberation room. But student achievement remained low, and the anticipated flood of students from the suburbs turned out to be more like a trickle. Court supervision of the desegregation case ended in 2003.
And to this day, the district continues to lose students. In the late 1960s enrollment peaked at 75,000, dropped to 35,000 a decade ago and now sits at just under 18,000.