KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The once flush-with-cash Kansas City school district is considering a radical plan to close nearly half its schools to stay afloat.It wasn't too long ago the KCMO school district was building olympic-sized swimming pools and taxiing white kids from Kansas in a futile attempt to desegregate a school district that merely reflected the racial makeup of the people who live in it*. They won a big fat two thousand million dollar award to do that, and that cash has enabled the school district to not only avoid the hard choices, but any choices. No arguing about costs: nothing is too good for the poor, benighted children of KCMO**. KCMO schools have been at an all you can eat buffet for two decades. Now that it's coming to an end, it looks like they will have to close half of their schools - half - to stay afloat. That's some bitching triage, my friends. And all because they refused to cut while the times were good and the cuts were easy.
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.
Moving over to Jefferson City:
Jefferson City -- The alarm bells are ringing in the halls of the state Capitol.Hark, I hear the bells, too. Why is such a thing happening? Well, mostly because of this:
The state of Missouri is going broke.
Some lawmakers saw this fiscal train wreck coming, warning last year against relying on the stimulus to fund ongoing operations in state government. But Republican legislative leaders and the Democratic governor forged ahead using the stimulus anyway.Same story, different chapter: so long as politicians have money to spend, they will not make choices. But the choices must be made now, because the tide-them-over money, which gave them a chance last year to step down from the precipice, is gone. The easy cuts*** are made, the hard cuts are coming.
And because they didn't make the hard cuts when they were easier cuts, there's a whole lot of state governments that are going to soon look like the KCMO school district.
* well, almost. The schools are more segregated - by which is meant they have a higher percentage of black students - than the city, but mostly because the white residents are older and therefore have fewer kids to go to school.
** who remain both poor and benighted despite the five-figures-and-more spent to educate each of them for each of twelve years.
*** by which is meant the not-really cuts, the moving-money-around cuts, and the pushing-back-payments cuts.