But if student achievement hasn't risen to national norms after all this time, the taxpayers of Missouri are entitled to ask why. Some $1.5 billion in special outlays, over and above the normal budget, has been devoted to the task of reconstructing the Kansas City schools--more than $40,000 per student. Annual spending per pupil, excluding capital costs, is twice as high as in nearby suburbs. All the high schools and middle schools, as well as half the elementary schools, have been turned into magnet schools. Each year since 1987, the district has gotten an AAA rating, the highest the state awards.
Rotted buildings have been replaced with state-of-the-art facilities. The district boasts greenhouses, laboratories, a 25-acre farm, a planetarium, schools that offer "total immersion" in foreign languages, lavish athletic arenas, radio and TV studios, computers in every classroom--everything you could ask for.
As Judge Clark put it, he has "allowed the district planners to dream" and "provided the mechanism for those dreams to be realized." An appeals court judge found that students in Kansas City "have in place a system that offers more educational opportunity than anywhere in America."
The goal was twofold: attracting white students from both the city and its suburbs and improving the performance of minority students. The exodus of whites has apparently been stopped, if not reversed. But the benefit to student performance has not materialized. From the evidence, you wouldn't know anything had changed.
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