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Has the Mayor Sold Out Education For the Streetcar?

On April 29, 2014 Mayor Sly James spoke at a symposium on the streetcar hosted by the UMKC Law School. The mayor had some interesting comments regarding the students in the Kansas City public school system. I have included the video so you will know I am not making this up.

He stated “as a result of less than world class education for decades in the City we do not have the internal inventory of young whiz kids…so that we have to import”. So instead of fixing the school system he is going with the adage “If we build the streetcar they will come.”

The mayor’s comments imply that he is turning his back on the current and future students in the Kansas City school system while “importing” new talent. Apparently he feels that the students in the private schools are not making the grade either. Aside from the fact that his comments are insulting and condescending, they also display a serious gap in leadership.

He went on to say that 23 or 24 year old MIT grads with a PhD are not interested in whether Kansas City is a good place to raise a family because “they ain’t raising a family”. He is ignoring the fact that those 24 year old PhD’s will soon be 30-somethings who are having kids. Do you think they will stay in Kansas City with a defunct school system? Of course not! They will move to Lee’s Summit, or the Northland, or Johnson County just like families have been doing in Kansas City for years.

SmartKC has said from the very beginning of this debate that Kansas City needs improved schools more than we need a streetcar. The City seems to think it is easier and cheaper to “import” new talent.

SmartKC believes the City’s responsibilities are to the students that live here now. Instead of spending almost $500 million on the streetcar to attract “new talent”, spend some time, energy and money to fix our schools. After all that is one of the duties of our elected officials.

And if there is any doubt that the kids in our public schools are capable of becoming “whiz-kids” check out the story on Fox 4 News of the consistent success of Sumner Academy in Kansas City, Kansas.

Sumner Academy named top Kansas school by Washington Post

They seem to have a much greater belief in our local youth than Mayor James.

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2 Comments

  1. Joe Golden says:

    I agree his statements are not well thought out but in fairness city hall does not control the KCPS.

    Further Sumner Academy seems to be the exception and not the rule. KCPS and the fallacy of magnet schools (outsourcing public education funds into private interests hands) have been terrible for special needs kids in particular but all kids in the area. While greed and power grabs help a few they fail our kids. That’s a bigger problem and one city hall should point out but they are too busy doing it themselves.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Our kids aren’t good enough so they need to be “imported”. You hear this stock line on every new urbanist – technology presentation circuit stage across the country these days. “We don’t have the talent. “We need to bring them in from Europe, Asia, San Francisco, New York, etc.” I happen to disagree. It’s also very weird how he veered off onto this subject when he was asked about sewer repairs.

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