Money And School Performance

Monday, September 14th, 2015

In 1985 a federal district judge took partial control over the troubled Kansas City, Missouri, School District (KCMSD) on the grounds that it was an unconstitutionally segregated district with dilapidated facilities and students who performed poorly:

For decades critics of the public schools have been saying, “You can’t solve educational problems by throwing money at them.” The education establishment and its supporters have replied, “No one’s ever tried.” In Kansas City they did try. To improve the education of black students and encourage desegregation, a federal judge invited the Kansas City, Missouri, School District to come up with a cost-is-no-object educational plan and ordered local and state taxpayers to find the money to pay for it.

Kansas City spent as much as $11,700 per pupil–more money per pupil, on a cost of living adjusted basis, than any other of the 280 largest districts in the country. The money bought higher teachers’ salaries, 15 new schools, and such amenities as an Olympic-sized swimming pool with an underwater viewing room, television and animation studios, a robotics lab, a 25-acre wildlife sanctuary, a zoo, a model United Nations with simultaneous translation capability, and field trips to Mexico and Senegal. The student-teacher ratio was 12 or 13 to 1, the lowest of any major school district in the country.

The results were dismal. Test scores did not rise; the black-white gap did not diminish; and there was less, not greater, integration.

The Kansas City experiment suggests that, indeed, educational problems can’t be solved by throwing money at them, that the structural problems of our current educational system are far more important than a lack of material resources, and that the focus on desegregation diverted attention from the real problem, low achievement.


  1. Cornelius says:

    That judge did the same thing in Rockford, IL with more or less the same results. Even went so far as to say that any public negativity toward his decisions would be considered to be contempt of court. With all that would mean.

  2. Bob Sykes says:

    Steve Sailer has pointed out that if America’s PISA scores are broken out by the White scores are similar Europe’s, the Asian scores are similar to Asia’s and the Black scores are similar the Caribbean’s.

  3. Handle says:

    There’s been even more case history to Jenkins since then. I highly recommend the definitive book on the subject of one of my favorite cases – Dunn’s Complex Justice.

    One caveat is that I think the book is far too forgiving to Judge Clark. I actually got to meet the guy once, and he didn’t deserve it. It’s not everyday a judge lets the defendant switch sides and join the plaintiffs in the middle of the case!

  4. Robert What? says:

    Regrettably, do not expect the judge to have learned a thing from it.

  5. Rumblestrip says:

    Federal District Judge Russell Clark.

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