Kansas City Public Schools Continue to Lose on Kansas-Missouri Border War
It is a sad day in Kansas City as our public school officials are struggling to revise their budget to compensate for Governor Parson’s devastating cuts, just as they are trying to find more money to cover extra expenses related to the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Federal Funding is under assault by Betsy DeVos who continues to appropriate CARES ACT funding for private and charter schools which are notorious for not being held accountable to the same reporting standards as our public schools.
With more budget cuts being promised by Parson in the next few months, our public schools are struggling to plan for an unknown future with an unknown amount of funding but to be sure, the funding will be considerably LESS than it ever has been before.
The latest figures show that five years ago, per pupil funding in the Kansas City Public School ecosystem (KCPS and Charters combined) was about $8,800 per student. Adjusted for modest inflation on costs for materials and salaries (2%), that level of funding should translate to about $9,400 per student next year. Instead, we are building our Fiscal year 2021 budget on a per student cost of just over $8,000.
This is all coming at a time when racial inequities are being brought to light with the Black Lives Matter movement and people are waking up to just how deep our systemic racial biases run here in Kansas City.
Our Mayor and a few City Officials are crying out for unity, promising to fix inequities and marching with protesters but meanwhile, during office hours on the 26th Floor at 414 E 12th St, (City Hall for those of us who are geographically challenged), deals are being brokered with big corporations who are asking for the same old handouts.
Many people might remember the outrage over the huge handouts given to Waddell & Reed a few months ago. People were crying out over the unfairness of letting a huge corporation get a pass from paying their property taxes while many people can’t afford to pay their taxes and might lose their home because of it, directly contributing to our homeless population and need for affordable housing.
And yet, this giveaway was approved by 8 out of the 12 people making these decisions and the reason given was that this deal was “grandfathered in” before the alleged “border war truce” was supposed to happen.
Many people were livid that this corporation would not need to pay any sales tax on their construction materials. Sales taxes are the lifeblood our fire and safety budget. Then, months later, city council quietly created a ballot initiative to raise our sales taxes to cover shortfalls in that same budget and with one of the lowest voter turnouts on record, during the nightly protests in Kansas City, managed to get that tax passed, 52% yes, to 49% no. To be clear, 10.29% of the entire voting population of Kansas City made the decision to raise the sales tax for the remaining 89.71% and that does not feel like unity to me.
Voters might like to know that a similar deal is being worked out for “BlueScope Steel”, an Australian corporation who has already been on the receiving end of our tax handouts and whose deal is about to expire. They have been offered a new deal from Kansas, as it turns out, and want us to sweeten the pot to keep their North American headquarters here in Missouri.
City Hall is salivating over the potential revenues to the city, mostly because they have a shortage of their own to deal with. But these revenues are not going to fix all the issues I have already eluded to here.
The state incentives are “grandfathered in” but our leaders could still say “no” to the handouts from our Earnings and Property taxes. They have already demonstrated that they do not mind robbing from us even more to fix their misappropriation of our tax revenues. It’s up to us to remind them that we’re watching. I hope readers remember that when the E-tax is up for re-election.
Why aren’t KCPS tax revenues taking priority? How can city hall expect us to believe that a “grandfathered” agreement to keep businesses in Missouri, who aren’t going to be providing aid for our growing population of impoverished citizens, is more important than our public schools or our mental health fund which directly serve people in need during a time when everything is needed?
This isn’t a border-war issue, it’s a Human Rights issue and it’s time that we accept that and start connecting the dots between these very basic funding decisions and the huge consequences we are seeing in the city right now.