KANSAS CITY, Mo.
— Bartending schools in Kansas and Missouri are struggling to stay afloat amid growing student debt and falling attendance, according to a new report from the National Bartending Association.
The union representing state-licensed, non-profit schools said the schools have experienced a drop in attendance, a cut in state funding and an increase in debt.
The schools, which have existed since before the Civil War, were created in the 1950s by the state’s Legislature to offer education to low-income students, said John Smith, the union’s executive director.
There are now more than a half-million students in the state-approved schools, according a 2015 report by the Kansas Department of Education.
Teachers and administrators say the students are frustrated and angry, saying they are being punished for trying to make ends meet, Smith said.
Many students have dropped out, and the schools are losing state support and funding to cover costs, he said.
The union also said the students have been subjected to racial bias by school officials, who sometimes refer to them as “pigs” and “cows” when discussing students of color.
The schools have also been accused of using the school-record system to discriminate against students who were not white.
Since the unions began organizing, there have been two teacher strikes and several other protests in the Kansas City area, including in the city’s downtown, where a large crowd gathered Saturday to protest a proposal by city officials to change the name of the city park to “Mountain View Park.”
Smith said the state will not have enough money to keep the schools open without additional state funding, which is slated to run out in 2020.
That would leave schools with few other options than closing, he added.
In a statement released Monday, the state Department of Administration said it would look into the union and its claims.
The department did not provide details on its investigation.
In Kansas, a state agency is working to find a new contract for the state schools.