Tom Ultican has been chronicling the advance of the DPE (Destroy Public Education) Movement. He attended the recent conference of the Network for Public Education, where he heard from leaders of the Kansas City (Missouri) school district and realized that it was suffering from the DPE strategy.

He wrote this post about the deliberate and heedless destruction of what was once a vibrant school district.

The city and the school district were, to begin with, victimized by white flight. Subsidized by federal housing policies, whites abandoned the city. Responding to a court order, the state poured huge sums into magnet schools in hopes of luring white students back, but it didn’t work.

Then the DPE moved in, like vultures, to feast on the carcass of the remaining public schools.

Ultican describes the rapid turnover in leaders, beginning with John Covington, who was placed in Kansas City by Eli Broad. Covington closed numerous schools to make way for school choice and charters. He didn’t stay long, however, because he got a call from the Great Eli himself, telling him to go to Detroit to run the Education Achievement Authority. That was a massive and costly failure.

At present, as he shows (based on the presentation of state data at NPE), the Kansas City school district has only 14,216 students. The charter in the districts, each of them considered a “school district,” has almost as many students. There are currently 20 (20!) separate local education agencies operating in what was once the Kansas City school district (each charter is its own local education agency). Twenty school districts competing for students.

This is expensive, as he shows. The Kansas City district spends more than double what is spent in the similar-size Springfield, Mo., district.

A sad footnote to this tale of harm inflicted on children and public schools is that much of it is funded by the local Kauffman foundation, whose namesake would likely be appalled to see what is being done with the money he left behind:

Ewing Marion Kauffman was a graduate of public schools. Before his death in 1993 he spent money and time promoting public schools. He was an eagle scout and he established the Kansas City Royal baseball team. He would undoubtedly hate the idea that the $2 billion foundation he established is now being used to undermine public education in his city.

Kauffman Foundation money was used to bring CEE-Trust to Kansas City. It was a Bill Gates funded spin off from Indianapolis’s proto-type privatizing organization The Mind Trust. The CEE-Trust mandate was to implement the portfolio theory of education reform. When local’s got wind of a backroom deal that had given CEE-Trust a $385,000 state contract to create a plan for KCPS things went south. A 2017 Chalkbeat Article says, “In 2013, a plan to reshape Kansas City’s schools was essentially run out of town.” It became so bad that CEE-Trust changed its name to Education Cities.

Now the same local-national money combination is funding a new group, SmartschoolKC, with the same portfolio district agenda. The new collaboration is funded by the Kauffman Foundation, the Hall Family Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation.

The portfolio model posits treating schools like stock holdings and trimming the failures by privatizing them or closing them. The instrument for measuring failure is the wholly inappropriate standardized test. This model inevitably leads to an ever more privatized system that strips parents and taxpayers of their democratic rights. Objections to the portfolio model include:

It creates constant churn and disruption. The last thing students in struggling neighborhoods need is more uncertainty.

Democratically operated schools in a community are the foundation of American democracy. Promoters of the portfolio model reject the civic value of these democracy incubators.
Parents and taxpayer no longer have an elected board that they can hold accountable for school operations.