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Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016

Desegregation case ends; let's move on

Friday, August 15, 2003

In what seems like a lifetime - and almost is - the 26 year-old desegregation case in Kansas City schools has apparently finally come to an end. Well hopefully. Lawyers for the plaintiffs have promised to appeal the court ruling that said Kansas City schools have done all they can to remedy segregation and the gap between black and white achievement.

Back in 1977 when the lawsuit was originally filed, it's doubtful that anyone knew the final price tag would approach $2 billion. And though ample progress has been made to bridge the achievement gap, some of those results will never change.

Originally, the families who filed the suit wanted black and white test scores to be virtually the same in all grades and in all subjects. Yet despite the massive spending program, that gap has closed but still remains in some grades.

The ruling means that no longer will school officials have to get federal approval for any change within the district. In other words, Kansas City officials and parents can now decide the future and direction of the Kansas City schools. That marks a long-awaited moment in history.

I would like to think we've learned a lesson from Kansas City but I truly doubt we have. Our approach over the past two and a half decades has been to throw taxpayer dollars toward a solution for the learning gap. But little focus was placed on the parental role in the issue and less on the issues that face black students in their quest for knowledge and learning. Instead, we built new schools, hired more staff and offered more programs. Yet students still came to school unprepared for learning. And students still came to school without the home foundation that would foster learning.

Thus, money is not always the solution though absence of money can be a part of the problem. The lessons learned from Kansas City will be discussed for decades. Let's hope we learn a lesson that will eliminate past mistakes and move the learning process forward for everyone.

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