As USD 259, the Wichita public school district struggles with potentially five closed school buildings to be closed, there is an easy solution at hand. It would require, however, that the school board and administration change their hostile attitude towards charter schools and school choice.
The Wichita Eagle reports that the district is considering closing five schools, and that these schools may become “a drain on the district’s already strapped budget.” (Vacant schools will challenge Wichita district, February 26, 2012.)
A natural use for these buildings is to be reused as schools, in this case charter or private schools. But neither is likely to happen.
In Kansas, charter schools must be authorized by the local school district. The Wichita school district’s hostility towards educational freedom — of which charter schools are one part — is so ingrained that it is difficult to imagine the district approving a charter school under any circumstances. This attitude is so brazen that it is unlikely anyone would spend any effort preparing a charter school proposal.
Further, as Kansas has no school choice programs like tax credit scholarships or vouchers, most parents can’t afford to send their children to private schools that might be formed to make use of these school buildings.
The Wichita school district, then, is likely to forgo a way to reuse existing school buildings in a way that would increase the opportunities for Wichita schoolchildren to get a good education. They’d rather see the buildings remain idle — and an expense to taxpayers.