KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It's tough to drive anywhere in Kansas City, Missouri, without seeing a billboard for Kansas City Public Schools.
Starting in 2016, the district began allocating more money to advertising through a new strategic plan.
“Get out and put some billboards up and promote what we were trying to do in the school district through radio stations, newspapers and even mailers that went home to families,” Superintendent Dr. Mark Bedell said. “Charters, in my opinion, they do a tremendous amount of advertising and I think that was a big reason why our board of directors, along with myself and the team, felt that we needed to do a better job. Because it is a very competitive market.”
The KCPS advertising budget is around $200,000 annually, or less than one thousandth of a percent of the district's annual budget.
Show Me KC Schools, a nonprofit dedicated to helping metro families find the perfect educational fit for their family, is taking note.
"I’m actually really impressed with the language KCPS is using, Director of Programs Leslie Kohlmeyer said. “People may not know this, but the average kindergarten parent has 23 choices, including their public neighborhood school, for free public education.”
Advertising has become a crucial part of recruiting students in Kansas City.
“Does this school have transportation? Does this school have uniforms? What are the hours of this school? Does this school have after school care or before school care,” Kohlmeyer listed as examples of questions parents may have.
KCPS is touting free KCATA, free hot spots for students who can't afford internet at home and free before and after school care through its ads.
Bedell said enrollment, once projected to dip below 14,000, has stayed up and he hopes it will continue to grow.
“We’re making this kind of progress because the district has been very intentional around our focus on our strategic plan and how we’re spending our money," he said.