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Schools and Education

What The Mayor Thinks:

Kansas City is blessed with some wonderful schools, inspiring teachers and award-winning programs. The city has nearly 200 schools in 14 different public school districts, as well as faith-based and charter schools.

Unfortunately, concern about schools is one of the “big three” reasons we have trouble attracting middle-class residents to Kansas City, and keeping them here.

Every day, we have middle-class people moving out of the city or relocating into the metro, but in one of the city’s suburbs. They have read, or been told, that their children cannot get a good education in Kansas City. One of the reasons? There has been a wall of separation between city government and the schools. It seems that no politician in the past has been willing to risk this political landmine, so they’ve excused their non-involvement by saying that the city has no authority over the school district.

But the city can do a lot to help. At the very least, we can be a credible partner to all our schools, in fact, we need to be, as having thriving schools is the only way that we can prosper and grow as a city.

Schools are the anchors for our neighborhoods, and they need to be islands of safety for our children. We cannot revitalize our neighborhoods without working closely with the schools – and those who want to reform the schools cannot do so without improving the neighborhoods. Research shows that student performance is strongly impacted by neighborhood conditions.

What The Mayor Has Done

I have supported our schools, and have encouraged neighborhoods and our city government to do the same through my Schools First initiative. Only by partnering with each other will our schools, our neighborhoods and our city succeed.

Schools First is a multi-faceted program designed to improve schools by focusing on and strengthening the neighborhoods that surround them. The plan calls for the city to focus basic services – police, sidewalks, city codes – in the 50-square block area around schools.

As neighborhoods improve, residents will return, sparking renewed interest in schools. They will demand that our schools be top notch. And, as schools improve, even more new residents will move in. And since businesses follow the people, new jobs will be created.

In general, Schools First is similar to a plan used in New York City in the 1990s that was credited, at least in part, with a substantial drop in that city’s crime rate.

In 2009, I met with school leaders throughout the city to listen to their concerns. I pushed a proposal through City Council to spend more than $20 million on neighborhood rehabilitation projects. Work on some of those projects started in August.

What The Mayor Plans to Do

I’m not done yet.

I will continue to work to build relationships with school administrators in Kansas City, and continue to press to focus basic services in the neighborhoods directly around schools.

In addition, I will push for an Office of School Support in City Hall to act as a liaison between the city and its schools, and will continue to press for more police in the neighborhoods around schools.

And this is just the beginning.

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