When the Wichita school district decided to build a new high school, the school board ignored concerns from parents that building Southeast High School far from the district’s center would result in plummeting graduation rates.
Parents were right, the Wichita Eagle reports. Only 65.4 percent of the high school’s students graduate. Less than 50 percent of male students graduate from Southeast High. The Kansas Department of Education numbers showed that only 47 percent of white males and 48.1 percent of black males manage to graduate from the school in four years.
“Southeast’s graduation rate has dropped steadily over the past several years, from nearly 78 percent in 2013,” the Eagle reports. According to the Wichita daily, the $65 million building marked the “largest and most expensive project” of a 2008 bond issue.
Despite the fancy new digs, graduation rates plummeted when the new Southeast opened in 2016. An assistant superintendent, Gil Alvarez, tells the paper that the venue change has caused attendance problems.
“If a kid now does not make the bus and doesn’t have a care to get there, it’s not walking distance. So that becomes a challenge,” Alvarez said.
It’s not just a challenge for the students. It’s a challenge for taxpayers who are on the hook for helping increase graduation rates. Here’s how the paper described it:
“Leaders haven’t said precisely how they plan to raise the graduation rate at Southeast or districtwide, but board members have mentioned using an expected increase in state funding to pay for more secondary-school counselors and programs for students at risk of dropping out,” the Eagle reports.
The district’s new plan to hire more counselors sounds like throwing good money after bad.
In a perfect world, taxpayers (and especially parents of children in that failing school) would have an option to send their children elsewhere. Instead, they’re asked to hand over the wallets and trust the board that’s already failed them once when they ignored their pleas to renovate the old, centrally-located school instead of tossing $65 million building on the district’s edge.
The Wichita district, readers should be reminded, is one of the handful of schools suing the state for more funding. Thanks to the Kansas Supreme Court’s mandate, the Wichita district is probably going to get more cash. Hopefully, they’ll spend it more wisely than they spent the $65 million they absconded from taxpayers to build the new high school.