Kansas City, Mo — If Missouri takes over Kansas City schools, the state would again be embroiled in the desegregation case against the district, the attorney who represents the plaintiffs in the case says.
Attorney Arthur A. Benson II faxed a letter to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Thursday, warning education officials what would happen if the state takes over the district. Kansas City schools lost their accreditation in May 2000 and face a state takeover on July 1 if the district does not do well enough on a review this winter.
"It is a Kansas City-area problem," Benson told The Kansas City Star Thursday. "If the state is determined to proceed, then it better have an ironclad plan and have an ample budget. If it doesn't, then it would be foolhardy to take over the district."
State Education Commissioner Kent King was out of the office Thursday and had not read the letter, said spokesman Jim Morris, who declined to comment.
In the letter, Benson offered several reasons why a state takeover next year would be "inadvisable and imprudent":
The state would again become a defendant in the desegregation case and face substantial costs. The state, which was a defendant from 1977 through 1998, would have to pay a costly amount to close the achievement gap between black and white students, he said.
Recently released assessment test scores show that district students are improving their academic achievement. A state takeover would disrupt this progress, Benson said.
Benson urged state education officials to improve student achievement by working with local leaders to reform the district.