Historic Dividing Lines In Public Education Still Affect Kansas And Missouri Schools | KCUR

Historic Dividing Lines In Public Education Still Affect Kansas And Missouri Schools

Jul 1, 2014


US Marshalls escort Ruby Bridges to and from school in New Orleans in 1960.
Credit CC Public Domain

This spring marked the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, a Kansas case that went to the Supreme Court and ultimately ended with the ruling that the segregation of schools was unconstitutional. In the first half of Tuesday's Central Standard, we shared some little-known stories of the desegregation process from the months and years that followed.

Later in the show, we joined the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in dusting off an old proposal for school district reorganization in Missouri.

A study commissioned in the late 1960s recommended merging several Missouri school districts. It was called the "Spainhower solution" and called for a total of twenty school districts in the state, one each for the greater metropolitan areas of St. Louis and Kansas City (Missouri is currently home to 520 school districts; Kansas City, Mo. alone includes at least portions of 15 districts).

The idea was to level the tax base and pool resources for schools, so that affluent citizens wouldn't fund thriving school districts right next door to poverty-stricken neighborhoods with fewer resources.

But the proposal came under fire when Kansas City and St. Louis suburbanites learned their mostly-white school districts would be combined with urban, mostly-black districts. We explored why Missouri had so many districts in the first place, how the lines were drawn, and whether it’s time to reconsider the “Spainhower solution.”


  • Justin Sochaki, interpretive park ranger, Kansas Parks Department
  • Thom Rosenblum, historian, Kansas Parks Department
  • John Rury, professor of education, University of Kansas