Public Schools
3:29 pm
Tue July 1, 2014

A Look Back At The Plan That Tried To Unify Kansas City Public Schools

The future of Kansas City and St. Louis public schools is uncertain, but unification could be a potential solution.
The future of Kansas City and St. Louis public schools is uncertain, but unification could be a potential solution.
Credit Liz / Wikimedia Commons

In 1967, Missouri Rep. Jim Spainhower was tasked with creating a bill that would reorganize public school districts throughout the state.

Known as the Spainhower Commission, the plan would've cut the total number of school districts down to 20.

Reactions to the Spainhower Commission were almost uniformly negative at the time, as many Kansas City and St. Louis suburb residents thought it was a ploy for tax money and desegregation. 

"We work hard for our homes and our children and our schools," a St. Louis suburb resident wrote to Rep. Spainhower. "[African-Americans] go on and on having children and crying for help and then the politicians have the nerve to want people like us to break our back financially, paying taxes to make up for their shortages."

In an interview with Central Standard's Gina Kaufmann, University of Kansas professor John Rury expressed dismay that Missouri's two major urban areas still struggle to get public education on track. 

"It's really remarkable how we have failed to move forward," Rury said. "We've just fallen short."

RELATED: How School And District Boundaries Shaped Education In Kansas City

Though Spainhower may have failed to make changes in the 1960s, the idea of unified school districts isn't necessarily a pipe dream. In February, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board wrote an editorial piece calling for a single St. Louis area school district.

"Perhaps the greatest benefit to creating one unified St. Louis School District would be its potential effect on the underlying causes of poverty in the region," the Post-Dispatch wrote. "This is how St. Louis creates a workforce capable of competing in the knowledge economy."

It's impossible to say whether Kansas City Public Schools will be reorganized, but change of some kind is necessary in order to regain accreditation. Part of that change may lie in partnerships, like the one recently announced with local charter school, Acadamie Lafayette

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