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Thursday, March 9, 2017

209.A Billion, Six For KC: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

A Billion, Six For KC 

What are the prospects of reclaiming systematic schooling so it serves the general 
welfare? Surely the possibility of recharging the system when so many seem to desire 
such a course would be the best refutation of my buried thesis — that no trustworthy 
change is possible, that the school machine must be shattered into a hundred thousand 
parts before the pledges made in the founding documents of this country have a chance to 
be honored again. No one serves better as an emblem of the hopelessness of a gradual 
course of school reform or one that follows the dictates of conventional wisdom than 
Judge Russell G. Clark, of Kansas City, Missouri. 

For more than ten years Judge Clark oversaw the spending of a $1.6 billion windfall in an 
attempt to desegregate Kansas City schools and raise the reading and math scores of poor 
kids. I arbitrarily select his story from many which might be told to show how unlikely it 
is that the forces which gave us our present schools are likely to vanish, even in the face 
of outraged determination. Or that models of a better way to do things are likely to solve 
the problem, either. 

Judge Russell G. Clark took over the Kansas City school district in 1984 after 
adjudicating a case in which the NAACP acted for plaintiffs in a suit against the school 
district. Although he began the long court proceedings as a former farm boy raised in the 
Ozarks without an activist judicial record, Clark's decision was favorable to the 
desegregationists beyond any reasonable expectation. Clark invited those bringing the 
suit to dream up perfect schools and he would get money to pay for them! Using the 
exceptional power granted federal judges, he unilaterally ordered the doubling of city 
property taxes. 4 When that provided inadequate revenue, he ordered the state to make up 
the difference. How's that for decisive, no-nonsense support for school reform as a social 

Suddenly the district was awash in money for TV studios, swimming pools, planetariums, 
zoos, computers, squadrons of teachers and specialists. "They had as much money as any 
school district will ever get," said Gary Orfield, a Harvard investigator who directed a 
postmortem analysis, "It didn't do very much." Orfield was wrong. The Windfall 
produced striking results: 

Average daily attendance went down, the dropout rate went up, the black-white 
achievement gap remained stationary, and the district was as segregated after ten years of 

well-funded reform as it had been at the beginning. A former school board president 
whose children had been plaintiffs in the original suit leading to Judge Clark's takeover 
said she had "truly believed if we gave teachers and administrators everything they said 
they needed, that would make a huge difference. I knew it would take time, but I did 
believe by five years into this program we would see dramatic results educationally." 
Who is the villain in this tale? Judge Clark is. He just doesn't get it. The system isn't 
broken. It works as intended, turning out incomplete people. No repair can fix it, nor is 
the education kids need in any catalogue to buy. As Kansas City proves, giving schools 
more money only encourages them to intensify the destructive operations they already 

They actually were raised 150 percent, from a base already not low. With what effect on homeowners just holding on was anyone's guess. 
Here, as in the case of Benson, Vermont, up ahead, the institution's aspect as predatory parasite appears in stark relief. 

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