Tomorrow, the people of Missouri will go to the polls in the primary. One important election will take place in St. Louis, where a forceful advocate for privatization is trying to unseat Congressman Lacy Clay.

Pay attention to this race. Read below to learn about his opponent, who has never lost a chance to harm public schools.


St. Louis Schools Watch

Watching the Primary Election

By Susan Turk

July 30, 2016—St. Louis– As you know, there is a well-orchestrated national effort to undermine traditional public schools, school districts and the teaching profession using state legislatures. Missouri State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal (D-University City)is a participant. She describes herself as supporting quality school choice, which is coded speech meaning charter schools and vouchers. She has filed and/or supported legislation for several years now that would harm public education.

During the 2016 session of the legislature Chappelle-Nadal filed SB 764, a bill that would have expanded charter school operation to every provisionally accredited district in the state and in every district in St. Louis and Jackson (Kansas City) counties even fully accredited districts. It also would have expanded the operation of virtual schools. Students in an unaccredited school in any district, even an accredited district could attend virtual schools and students in every district in Jackson County, St. Louis County and St. Louis City could also attend virtual schools whether or not their district was accredited. It allowed students in unaccredited districts and also unaccredited schools in accredited districts to cross district boundaries to attend charter and virtual schools. There is little monitoring of virtual schools. The quality of education they provide is frequently sub par. They offer a choice that can be harmful to children.

The charters could cherry pick the districts in which they would open and require the tuition the state allows that district to charge to out of district students, financially damaging the home district. There are county districts where tuition and revenue per student varies by as much $12,000 per student. Charter school operators do not want to open in Normandy. They know there isn’t enough of a market there to enable a charter school to be financially viable. But if they could open in Clayton or Ladue and import students from other districts, that would be another matter.

The bill also would have required provisionally and unaccredited districts to hold a fire sale of all vacant school buildings in September of 2016 and to auction any that did not sell during that month. That would have stripped districts of their fiduciary responsibility and their ability to sell real estate at the highest prices, maximizing revenue for their students. It also would have stripped districts of capacity to deal with a potential future enrollment increase or need to repurpose buildings due to a fire or other catastrophe. Fortunately, the bill did not get a hearing nor were its provisions amended to other bills. Governor Nixon vetoed bills sponsored by Chappelle-Nadal dealing with inter-district transfer issues 2 years in a row, so the Republican leadership of the legislature has decided to stop sending him legislation on this topic.

In the past Chappelle-Nadal has filed or supported bills that made it easier for students in unaccredited districts to transfer out. The majority of students, approximately three quarters of the students in Normandy and Riverview Gardens, chose to remain in their districts. Those who chose to remain have been robbed of resources by the tuition required from receiving districts which in many cases is higher than the revenue per student received for them. Chappelle-Nadal was fine with that, penalizing the majority of students who chose to remain. The DESE tried to moderate the damaging effects of the transfer law. Chappelle-Nadal, working with Rex Singuefield’s Children’s Education Alliance, encouraged parents to sue school districts if they followed DESE recommendations and barred children from enrolling because of overcrowding. Chappelle-Nadal does not appear to have any concern for those students who have chosen to remain in Riverview and Normandy. She has not advocated for increased resources for them. She appears to think that everyone should leave, not respecting those who choose to remain.

This year she was the only Democrat to vote with Republicans to override the governor’s veto of SB 586. The bill lowered the adequacy target for the foundation formula, the amount of funding required to provide for basic educational needs in our public schools, from $6.700 to $6,100 per student. They did not need her vote for the override. The bill originally passed the senate with all democrats voting for it. There was a carrot in the bill that would fund pre-k for the first time if the legislature ever fully funded the formula, but that was just put there to give legislators cover for voting for it. The other Democrats voted to sustain the governor’s veto, but Chappelle-Nadal has a strict policy of never reversing the way she votes, so she voted with the Republicans to override the veto.

Lowering the adequacy target harms every public school student in the state. The legislature lowered the target because they never fully funded the foundation formula and were tired of having their underfunding of public education pointed out each year. But because of the income tax cut they passed last year it is unlikely they will ever be able to even meet the lowered target. The Republican dominated legislature has shown no interest in improving public education and certainly not in adequately and equitably funding public education.

Chappelle-Nadal has 2 years left in her state senate term but she is challenging 1st district Congressman Lacy Clay in the August 2nd democratic primary. St. Louis Public Schools AFT Local 420 has endorsed Congressman Clay for re-election by the way. The 1st district encompasses the city of St. Louis and most of north St. Louis County.

Oh and last week the 2016 NAACP delegates at the national convention in Cincinnati approved a moratorium on the proliferation of privately managed charter schools.