The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is frustrated with lack of action by the legislature on addressing school takeovers when a district is failing. A bill that would have allowed the state to take over the Kansas City Public School system got hung up in the process of the last day of the legislative session.
Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro says the department is looking for flexibility in the current policy so that direct action can be taken when schools are failing. She says on the other hand, if a school is taking the right steps to get on a positive track, the state shouldn’t be mandated to takeover and impede good progress that’s already happening.
In the meantime, the Kansas City School District continues to flounder. Nicastro says the Department will continue to pool resources to help more students succeed until something else can be done in 2014 … when the law allows.
“This is not a new problem,” she says. “The Missouri School Improvement Program has been in place for over 20 years, and they have yet to meet full standards under that system for full accreditation.”
“This is something weve been concerned about for some time,” Nicastro says. “What were really interested in, of course, is ensuring that each and every child gets the best education they can, and were not conviced at this time that’s happening for the children of Kansas City.”
Kansas City Democrat Sen. Jolie Justus blames the failure of the bill on teacher’s unions that lobbied against it.
House Minority Leader Mike Talboy — a Kansas City Democrat — says it’s ridiculous for the state to basically declare a district a failure but then be barred from taking meaningful steps to fix it. Legislators outraged by the bill’s failure on the last day of session said those standing in the way of its passage were putting 17 thousand children and their parents in limbo.
“This bill died because of the selfishness of a few people, and it’s just disgusting to me,” said Sen. Kiki Curls, another Kansas City Democrat.
Nicastro says the department will continue to work with legislators to take up the issue again when the legislature convenes next year.
AUDIO: Jessica Machetta reports (1:09)