CEE-Trust Study: Something For Everyone To Love…And Hate
Any plan that offers a solution to the persistent problem of failing inner-city schools is bound to receive some pushback. As Joe Robertson, of the Kansas City Star, warns, “History tells us to expect a fight.” That is especially true when the plan entails completely restructuring how schools are governed and operated. On Monday, CEE-Trust presented to the Missouri Board of Education a draft of its highly anticipated, and highly controversial, plan to improve Kansas City Public Schools. The plan argues “that it is not the people in the system that is the problem; it is the system itself.” The solution: transition from a school system to a system of schools.
Like other school districts in Missouri, a central office and a school board directly run the Kansas City Public Schools. This governance has left very little decision-making power to the local schools. CEE-Trust’s plan would shift governance to a “Community Schools Office” (CSO). The CSO would not seek to run schools, as central offices have; instead, it would manage a portfolio of independent, locally run schools. These schools would be given greater control over their budgets and greater flexibility to develop programs that meet the needs of their students.
A key element in the CEE-Trust proposal is choice. The authors note that “A system that is driven by parent and student choice will create more diverse options to appeal to students’ varying needs, and those schools that fail to attract enough students will be replaced by other schools with a better chance of success.” Indeed, it is choice that has led to the creation of language immersion, STEM-focused, performing arts, and a host of other types of schools.
In addition to choice, there are many other ideas contained within the 78-page report. The proposal calls for improving teacher pay, maintaining the right of teachers to unionize and collectively bargain, and universal pre-kindergarten. There is indeed something for everyone to love, and hate, in the CEE-Trust proposal.
The proposal is intriguing. Indeed, I have argued for many of the ideas presented in the proposal (also here and here). Most importantly, CEE-Trust calls on us to “re-imagine” how we operate public education. I could not agree more.