School Choice in Kansas City, the Old-Fashioned Way
There is an extremely interesting move afoot in Kansas City, by residents of the far-eastern part of the city, to leave the Kansas City School District and join the Independence School District. The Star has the latest update on the story here. I guess this is the electoral way to do school choice just gather signatures and have a vote to leave one school district and join another. Other writers here at SMI will discuss the educational implications that is not my area. I am here to write about the local goverment rules. Pretty exciting stuff, huh?
Missouri has long had a very good rule about political annexations residents of both the new and old areas have to approve it. Apparently, though, the Legislature last session made a small change to the statutes, related to the exact situation we have here. I doubt this was a coincidence, but so it goes. Poo-Tee-Weet. My name is David Stokes. Whoo … came unstuck there, but I’m back now.
The law now states that in votes such as this, which involve unaccredited or provisionally accredited school districts, Kansas City is the latter only the residents of the area seeking to move need a vote of 50 percent plus 1 to make the change. Opponents are seeking every angle to fight it, including the amazing instance of a government employee union leader warning about higher taxes:
Judy Morgan, president of the Kansas City teachers union […] criticized what she said would be a disruption of the schools that is largely driven by property owners hoping to improve the value of their property. She also noted that the Independence School District, which taxes property at a rate of $5.08 per $100 assessed valuation compared with Kansas City’s rate of $4.95, has a higher school levy than the Independence district. “Taxes would go up,” she said.
She’s probably right in the short term. In the long run, the increase in total district population and likely increase in property values for the area that moves should allow the Independence tax rate to decrease significantly. But if the residents of the area that are seeking to change really care about education first, as I believe they do, they will pass this initiative next month, as I believe they will. And probably by a fairly wide margin. This is nothing more than citizens using the democratic process to improve their lives. I wish them success.