White Families Do Not Validate Kansas City Public Schools



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Kansas City public schools need both the dollars and the diversity they lost to “white robbery.”


Last week, an op-ed I presented and wrote on behalf of the Editorial Board asked if white families would be returning to Kansas City public schools now that the district is on the verge of full accreditation for the first time in ten years. It is a great achievement, and a reason for those who have chosen to return home to the district.

Critics viewed what I wrote as somehow suggesting that the KCPS could only ever be validated by an influx of affluent white families.

“It is unfortunate that the Star editorial board thinks the overall goal of improving school performance is to get white children to attend KCPS,” wrote one writer. “It’s SO racist !!”

Another said: “What I take from this article is that the KCPS cannot be deemed worthy if the ‘rich’ whites do not come in. “

It was certainly not my intention – and in fact, it did not occur to any of us on the board. Instead, our message was that the district needs both the dollars and the diversity it lost when white families started sending their children elsewhere.

More schooling would prevent school closures, and more diversity helps at-risk children the most.

Kansas City’s public school minority student population is nearly 90%, according to district data. The district is segregated, as its own analysis of the Kansas City public school system concluded in 2019. In a city that is 60% white, it is a shame that only 10% of the over 14,000 students in the district are white. .

Yes, there are over a dozen school districts within the city limits and the KCPS limits include some of the poorest and darkest parts of the city.

But white families left the neighborhood in droves over a 20-year period starting in the 1970s. The “white robbery” devastated Kansas City public schools. The district has not been predominantly white since 1969. Over the past 20 years, the proliferation of charter schools in Kansas City has drained the district’s enrollment as a whole. Middle class families of all races have left for better opportunities in the suburbs.

The district lost half of its white student population when seven schools in West Independence were annexed in 2008.

If diversity is a good thing, and it is, then now that the neighborhood is on its feet, why is it a problem to offer white families a review of schools that have clearly come a long way? I stand by what I wrote, and so do my colleagues.

This story was originally published January 8, 2022 6:17 pm.

Kansas City Star Stories

Toriano Porter is an opinion writer and member of the editorial board of The Star. He has received state, regional and national recognition for his reporting since joining McClatchy in 2012.


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