Peter Greene wrote a post about the continuing deterioration and abandonment of public education in St. Louis. It is a sad story.


Teachers’ salaries are frozen. Teachers are fleeing the district. The school district is losing enrollment. The district has a school board but it is powerless.


Peter writes (open the story for the links):
But the school system’s population problems are part of the city’s problems, and the city’s problems include white flight. St. Louis is discredited with “the highest thirty-year rate of building and neighborhood abandonment in North American history.” The 2010 census revealed a loss of 29,000 residents since the previous head count.

Schools have been standing empty, and the public system has been in trouble going back to at least 2007, when the state stripped it of its accreditation and took it over, stripping local control from the elected school board. The school district is run by a three-person Special Administrative Board; they hire the superintendent and are themselves political appointees.

This big bunch of troubles has made St. Louis a prime target for charters, a confluence of sincerely concerned parents who wanted to get their children out of a struggling public system and charteristas who smelled a market ripe for profit overseen by a charter-friendly mayor. The newspapers and city leaders don’t seem to like to mention it much, but on top of everything else, the St. Louis schools suffer from the charter effect– students leave for charters, but there is no proportionate lessening of expenses in the schools they leave, and so they leave many students behind in an already troubled public school that now has that much less money with which to work.

And so last spring, charters were predicting a banner year with great enrollment. This even though the charter schools of St. Louis have not been anything to write home about, either; at one point the city shut down the chain of six Imagine Charters (containing a third of the city’s charter students) for academic failure and financial shadiness.

Meanwhile, Missouri is one of those magical states where the government has a funding formula in place– which it simply ignores. At the beginning of 2015, Missouri schools were being underfunded by nearly a whopping half billion-with-a-b dollars.


But you need to learn about how all this started, and the place to begin is with this essay by Peter Downs, who was then the president of the elected school board (which no longer exists). Downs, a journalist, warned in 2009 that there was a “plot to kill public education” and he supplies the details. Plenty of money for consultants, not so much for the students and teachers. You will not be surprised to learn that the leading actors in the destruction of public education were the Broad Foundation and a bankruptcy firm called Alvarez & Marsal, who confused bankruptcy with “turnaround.”


I may put up a separate post for Peter Downs’ essay. It is eerily predictive of what is happening in city after city, as corporate reformers move in to kill off public education.