Archives for category: Missouri

Gloria Nolan is a parent of children enrolled in St. Louis public schools. She recently joined the board of the Network for Public Education.

She wrote the following article, which was published in the St.Louis Post-Dispatch.

She begins:

For about three years I worked for an organization that was invested in growing the charter school movement locally and around the country. Thankfully, I moved on, and now I fully support charter school reform, such as the reforms included in the new regulations for the federal charter school program proposed by Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. Here is why.

I fully began to realize what I was a part of during lunch when I had a chance to talk to the chief executive of The Opportunity Trust, Eric Scroggins. I rattled off a list of ideas I had for turning the public schools in the St. Louis district around.

That wouldn’t work, he responded. He said the objective was to burn the system down.

For Opportunity Trust and so-called reform movements like it, the key to school improvement is to replace public schools with charter schools, or public schools that act like charter schools. That is when I lost all faith in what charter proponents were selling.

And where do these charter schools go to get start-up and expansion funds? The federal Charter School Program…

The same special interest groups that promote organizations like The Opportunity Trust are fighting the very reasonable rules that [Secretary Miguel] Cardona has proposed to help clean up the mess. With a campaign of misinformation, the charter lobby led by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools promotes the extreme right’s support for stopping the proposed regulations.

As a Black woman, I find it hard to believe any news outlet that promotes fearmongering about critical race theory and features an op-ed that criticizes the regulations because their frequent use of the words “diversity” and “racial” has the best interests of my children at heart…

The one regulation that the charter lobby objects to the most is the requirement to do an impact analysis to see if the school is needed or wanted by the community. Given that more than 40% of charter schools close within their first 10 years, an impact sounds like common sense to me. This particular regulation is also in line with the implementation of the City-Wide Planning Committee and its call for a moratorium on the opening of new schools. The guidelines here locally were met with strong opposition from The Opportunity Trust and its supporters.

I have been on the inside of the reform/charter school movement. Its ultimate objective is to destroy our public school system by replacing it with a system of charter and voucher schools. These new regulations will not stop that. I wish they were stronger. But at the very least they could help ensure that our federal tax dollars will be given to charter schools that have better intentions than many of the schools that are receiving Charter School Program grants now.

Billionaire Reed Hastings claims to be a Democrat, but he loves charter schools and despises public schools. In his efforts to promote privatization, he has funded some extremist Republicans. In Missouri, he funded the Republicans intent on eliminating abortion services for women, while giving a pittance to Democrats in the Missouri legislature..

In Indiana, Reed Hastings is the sugar daddy of a very rightwing Republican Party that wants to expand charters and vouchers. Hastings is a man without principle. He doesn’t care about evidence. He doesn’t care about charter financial scandals. He wants to win, and he will fund anti-abortion zealots in Missouri and rightwing extremists in Indiana, so long as it undermines public schools.

Steve Hinnefeld writes in his Indiana blog:

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has given another $700,000 to a pro-charter-school Indiana PAC, which has funneled a big chunk of the money to supporting Republican legislative candidates.

The PAC – called, without apparent irony, Hoosiers for Great Public Schools – reported only one contribution in its 2022 pre-primary campaign finance report, covering Jan. 1 to April 8: the one from Hastings, a California resident with a net worth estimated between $4 billion and $6 billion.

Hoosiers for Great Public Schools then gave $100,000 to another PAC, Hoosiers for Quality Education, which favors school choice in all its forms, including private school vouchers. Hoosiers for Quality Education has made over $600,000 in contributions this year, all to Republicans. Most has gone to GOP House candidates who are favored by caucus leaders and are in contested primaries.

Hoosiers for Quality Education, with ties to Betsy DeVos, the U.S. secretary of education in the Trump administration, didn’t just get money from Hoosiers for Great Public Schools. It got $425,000 this year from Walmart heir Jim Walton, along with several smaller donations.

Hastings also gave Hoosiers for Great Public Schools $700,000 in 2020. It also got $200,000 that year from John Arnold, a Texas billionaire. The group has never received a penny from an actual Hoosier.

But it does have a Hoosier connection. Bart Peterson, who heads the operation, was mayor of Indianapolis from 2000 to 2008. He was a Democrat then. I don’t know what he considers himself now, but he has become a primary source of out-of-state cash for Indiana Republicans.

Peterson told me in 2020 that he was “an unabashed supporter of charter schools” and was making the contributions to improve funding for the schools, which are publicly funded but privately operated. (His day job is president and CEO of Christel House International, which operates charter schools in Indianapolis and schools for underprivileged children around the world).

Whatever the motivation, the campaign contributions helped bolster the Republican supermajority in the Indiana General Assembly. In the 2022 legislative session, that supermajority: 1) repealed the law requiring Hoosiers to have a permit to carry a handgun; 2) made it much more difficult for poor people to be released from jail on bail; and 3) stoked phony outrage over schools teaching “critical race theory.”

Reed Hastings and Betsy DeVos. Hastings, funder of the anti-abortion crusade. Hastings, funder of the phony war against honest teaching about racism (aka “critical race theory.”)

Shameful.

I have always been puzzled by the indifference of state and federal legislators to widespread failure and fraud in the charter sector. The same mystery shrouds the decisions of the billionaires who keep pouring new money into new charters. No matter how many of the charters fail and close their doors, no matter how many of their founders are convicted of embezzlement or padding enrollment, no matter how many are in the state’s list of low-performing schools, the money keeps flowing.

The obvious reason that politicians support charters is because hedge funds and very wealthy donors make sizable campaign contributions. In New York, both Governor Kathy Hochul and NYC Mayor Eric Adams received millions in campaign donations from the charter boosters. We know why free-market zealots like Betsy DeVos and Charles Koch ignore the evidence: They want to privatize education. Why the Wall Street crowd continues to fund failure is a mystery.

A friend in Missouri sent me the previous post about a charter school that was taking in public money despite low academic performance. I asked him why the legislature wanted more charter schools, instead of supporting public schools. It wasn’t rational, I said.

He replied, you have to understand the Missouri legislature, and he sent me the following article. It was written by Stacey Newman, who served in the Missouri legislature for nine years. The picture she paints conjures up thoughts of Mark Twain, H.L. Mencken and Will Rogers. It’s a description of an institution where chaos, dysfunction, and drunkenness are par for the course.

Newman wrote that “dysfunction” was the legislature’s middle name.

As do most voters, I expect legislators to be serious when they take their oath of office. I want to trust they will treat their offices with reverence instead of middle school immaturity — I really do. My first late-night session as a freshman involved debate over a pornography bill. Arguments proceeded way past midnight as I was introduced to #molegafterdark. Coffee cups are allowed on House chamber desks, yet during evening sessions, many of those cups contain alcohol. I was appalled at the drunken debate, remembering how hard I campaigned just to be sitting at one of those desks. Surrounding us were the words carved at the very top of the House chamber: “Liberty, Justice, Law, Progress, Truth, Knowledge, Honor.” Yeah, right.

Hijinks abound every session — particularly as tempers flare between the Republican-controlled state House and Senate. It is routine for both chambers to be at odds as constitutional deadlines loom and members are often campaigning against each other for higher office. Legislators are permitted to carry concealed guns in the Capitol (really) and many pat their pants pockets during high stress debates, reminding everyone who has firepower. One year, I witnessed a screaming near-fistfight of legislators behind my seat as security rushed to intervene. On another late night, I prepared to hide under my desk as an armed inebriated state senator paced our side gallery in intimidation during a contentious House vote on her bill…

Yet we keep hoping for serious people to take over and heed the state motto, “Let the welfare of the people be the supreme law.” It doesn’t say anything about hijinks. There is plenty to do: Fund public schools instead of banning history and attacking teachers; provide access to health care to those who desperately need it and allocate federal relief education dollars, for starters. Accept that masks are not the enemy during a pandemic and that vaccinations, which most elected officials in Jefferson City have received, are lifesaving. Stop with the anti-science hooey left over from the 1692 Salem witch trials. Stop pretending you are aggrieved and, for once, leave your racism and hatred of transgender kids buried at home.

Read more at: https://www.kansascity.com/opinion/readers-opinion/guest-commentary/article258850773.html#storylink=cpy

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch published a front-page story about the financial shenanigans associated with a charter school founded by two TFA teachers (one of whom was the son of the former mayor). The school has a large number of uncertified teachers and an uncertified high school principal and boasts of its staff’s lack of credentials. Its teachers have a high attrition rate. And its academic performance is mediocre. The school handbook says that staff must keep all financial records confidential. Nonetheless, the school Hoovers up millions of taxpayer dollars from local, state and federal governments and claims it wants to “proselytize” about its “method.” Whether they mean to spread their “method” of sucking up public funds or producing unimpressive academic results is not clear.

Despite stories like this one, the Republican-led legislature wants to authorize more charters.

ST. LOUIS — The sponsor of Kairos Academies, a charter school in the Marine Villa neighborhood, has raised red flags over the school’s financial and leadership practices involving a shadow group that employs nearly two-thirds of the staff.

The school’s founders created Kairos Academies Vanguard for “charitable and educational purposes” before the school opened three years ago, according to records with the Missouri Secretary of State. The nonprofit has since grown to employ 36 staff members out of 56 who work at the school, including 10 teachers and all administrators.

Kairos has funneled millions of taxpayer dollars to Vanguard for bookkeeping, human resources, student recruitment, special education and other services, all without a contract. While Vanguard staff members work full time at Kairos, are listed in the school directory and share a staff handbook, school leaders say they are exempt from state laws requiring the release of financial information and participation in an educators’ pension fund.

Vanguard qualifies as a quasi-governmental body subject to Missouri Sunshine Law because its primary purpose is to contract with a taxpayer-funded school, said St. Louis lawyer Elad Gross.

“Schemes like this one to spin off a nonprofit organization are trying to do what a lot of corporations do,” Gross said. “Folks are using those same Wall Street-type practices to avoid liability and public transparency.”

In a “letter of concern” sent this month, the Missouri Charter Public School Commission that sponsors Kairos outlined a 13-point correction plan for the school to complete by March 31. The plan calls for an approved contract with Vanguard, separate audits of the school and the nonprofit, and legal oversight and training on open records laws.

Kairos violated Missouri regulations by not following policies regarding its relationship with Vanguard including approval from its sponsor, according to Robbyn Wahby, the charter school commission’s executive director.

“These requirements exist to ensure that public funds for the education of Missouri students are managed transparently and appropriately,” Wahby wrote in the Feb. 4 letter.

After receiving Wahby’s letter, Kairos set up a mailbox for Vanguard at a coworking space across the street from the school on south Jefferson Avenue. The Kairos board held a special meeting Wednesday to approve a temporary contract through March that pays Vanguard $282,480 per month. Clayton lawyer Hugh Eastwood serves as president of the board of both organizations.

The charter commission “is demanding that the school have a detailed contract with Vanguard so that the commission and taxpayers will know how public funds are used” by the March 31 deadline, Wahby said. “We are pleased that Kairos Academies’ board agrees with our findings and is working to put in place the remedies we are requiring of them.”

$3.3 million

Kairos Academies opened in fall of 2019 led by CEO Gavin Schiffres and chief strategy officer Jack Krewson, son of then-mayor Lyda Krewson. The founders were both 25 at the time and graduates of the two-year Teach for America program. The education reform group Opportunity Trust contributed more than $300,000 in startup costs and continues to provide annual grants.

Kairos now enrolls about 400 students in fifth through eighth grades and will start a high school with ninth graders in the fall. Last spring, 35% of students tested proficient in English and 33% in math on state standardized tests. Only eight current staff members, including Krewson and Schiffres, were with the school when it opened in fall of 2019, according to the school directory.

Schiffres said Vanguard was formed with the “idea of creating a vehicle where we could take what we learned and potentially bring it to other regions, take the Kairos method and proselytize that.”

Charter schools are publicly funded and independently operated. Under Missouri law, charter school employees are required to participate in the Public School Retirement System of the City of St. Louis. Kairos pays 15% of the salaries of 20 teachers into the retirement fund, according to an audit of fiscal year 2021 by St. Louis accounting firm KEB.

The school’s administrators, plus Spanish, art and special education teachers, the principal and head of athletics and secretarial staff are considered contractors who are exempt from the fund. Those 36 employees can receive up to a 3% match for a separate retirement fund, according to the Kairos staff handbook.

The audit of Kairos included Vanguard as an affiliate because “the entities are commonly managed.” It shows the two organizations combined received $3.3 million in local, state and federal tax revenue in fiscal 2021.

No certification

A review of state and school records shows other examples of Kairos operating like a private organization:

• Eight teachers including three English teachers have no Missouri teaching certificates. An additional seven have substitute certificates, according to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Nilesh Patel, who is slated to lead Kairos’ high school this fall, has no state certification. The Kairos community handbook reads, “Please assume that your child’s teachers are not certified to teach in their assigned grade level or subject. Although most are, Kairos takes cues from the best private schools around the country and recruits talent with diverse, real-world experience.”

• Like traditional public schools, charter schools are not allowed to discriminate in admissions. The Kairos staff handbook suggests that family income can play a role. “Enrolling another low-income student will make it harder to get the high academic results my team is striving for … disadvantaged students tend to come in below grade level,” the handbook describes as a hypothetical admissions decision. “On the other hand, our Finance Team understands the economic value associated with any student: they’re ‘customers’ the state pays us to educate.”

• Kairos received $163,000 in 2020 through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program. The school also anticipates receiving about $2 million in coronavirus relief for public schools from the U.S. Department of Education, according to its records.

• The Kairos handbook says staff must keep financial information, vendor contracts and curriculum confidential.

Do it the Kairos way!

A friend of public schools in Missouri sent the following excerpt of a report by the League report by the state League of Women Voters.

EDUCATION

Senate Education Committee Votes Out Bills

The committee voted out all bills heard thus far this session on February 10, including:

SB 869 (Koenig) to revise the law specifying payments to charter schools and shift more local school funds to charter schools. The League opposes this, based on our position on charter schools and support for public school funding.

SB 650 (Eigel) to allow charter schools to be sponsored by outside entities (other than the local school board) and operate in many districts around the state. Sen. Eigel also offered a proposed SCS version that would add several other provisions, including moving school board elections to the November election, adding restrictions on approval of debt service levies, preventing schools from requiring face masks, and preventing school districts from requiring students or staff to have COVID vaccinations. The League opposes the bill.

House Elementary & Secondary Education Committee

The committee met on February 8 and heard HB 2428 (Dogan) to impose restrictions on instruction relating to race and history. The bill authorizes lawsuits against school employees for violations of the new requirements in the bill. The League opposes the bill.

The Republican-controlled legislature in Missouri has imposed charter schools on the state’s two urban districts (but not their own). The legislature is now considering HB1552, which will financially benefit charter schools. Emily Hubbard, a parent in St. Louis, wrote to ask the Budget Committee to stop expanding and favoring charter schools and to fund the state’s public schools equitably and adequately. She sent this email to the Budget Committee, which I am posting with her permission.

Dear Budget Committee Members, 

I am planning to come speak to you in person, so I will keep this email brief. 

I am a parent of four children in St. Louis Public Schools. They are amazing kids who have been loved and taught well from our neighborhood elementary school to the magnet middle school my two oldest attend. With my youngest in second grade, I have another decade in SLPS, assuming that the district manages to survive.

Y’all, I am so tired of certain members of the state legislature pitting charter schools against public school districts. I am especially baffled that this bill is sponsored by someone with no charter schools in his district. Who is he representing with this bill? Because of the laws y’all or your predecessors have already made, this statewide law will only affect two cities (and maybe Normandy?), and I know you know these are the cities with the most Black kids (mine included). 

My new neighborhood school (we recently moved from Rep. Aldridge’s district to the 81st) is a school that serves students who speak many different languages at home. ESOL services cost money. I don’t know if you have the time to watch this video from the October legislative committee of the Board of Education, but let me remind you that around 20% of SLPS kids do not have stable housing. That’s around 5000 children. This data is 2018-2019 (from this site) , but please look at these numbers: 

all SLPS kids: 21,814

all Charter kids: 10,109

homeless population at SLPS: 4,771

homeless population at charters: 470

SLPS homeless percentage: 21.87% 

charter homeless percentage: 4.65% (but some have zero, some are high as 13%, some have closed 2019)

SLPS serves a student population with disproportionately higher needs than charter schools, whether it’s through our fantastic ESOL programs; the difficult task of walking through trauma with kids (one of my daughter’s classmate’s mother was murdered over Christmas break); the cost incurred by the desegregation program which doesn’t seem to have done that much to integrate our schools (especially the neighborhood ones) and instead allows white and privileged parents the ability to cluster in the particular magnet schools and hoard their resources for the sake of their already resourced children; or the special education costs which we shoulder alone, not shared like in the county. 

And then there’s the whole transportation thing–did you know that some charter schools don’t provide transportation? So you can’t really choose that school if you don’t have a safe way to get your kid to school and home again.

I don’t know anything about the education system in Kansas City, so I can’t speak to that, but please please please consider the effect that passing this bill will have on the children of St. Louis. 

I am an evangelical Christian (a pastor’s wife, even), and I have seen our school be the means that does the Lord’s work: they feed the hungry, clothe the naked, take care of the orphan, minister to the foreigners within our gates, not to mention, for our family at least, providing an education that has enabled my children to grow in their faith as we take what they’ve learned at school and use it to glorify God together. 

Please don’t take away from funds that enable SLPS to do the work it does, however imperfectly.

And could we just as a state, fund education at a higher rate all together? I know the rural schools are struggling too. 

Also if we could alleviate homelessness, do what it takes to end gun violence, prioritize the health of all Missourians, raise the minimum wage, deal with our opioid addiction crisis…there are a ton of non-education things that if addressed, would significantly and positively affect not just our district, but all the districts. Just think about it, okay?

Thanks so much for your time–see you on Tuesday! I’m sorry that this wasn’t brief at all, I just care a whole lot.

With appreciation for the difficult work you do,

Emily Hubbard

Carondelet, St. Louis

An educator in Missouri who is known to me wrote the following:

They drive us crazy.

The Governor is in favor of anything that allows people to do whatever they want when they want – even if it breaks a law or is uncivil. That has been the case for decades – except now things they all said only at dinner tables and the back rooms are expressed boldly in public… l

He and his allies have created and validated this “no one is going to tell me what to do” culture. And it is spreading regardless of politics. If you don’t get caught – it’s ok.

Even the legislature that cares less about civility and respect – including holding a hearing on CRT with only white invitees.

The latest is a child bringing a gun to school paired with the Michigan case. Blame the parents everyone says. Well – in Missouri, there is no law (they tried) requiring that guns be locked up in homes.

Then there’s masks! Eric Schmitt, the attorney general, sued every school district with a mandate and Republican judges supported it. The governor hid a scientific report that illustrated masks do save lives and severe illness. And the list goes on and on.

Not only has it taken authority from local districts to enact a mandate, he issued “cease and desist” orders to districts with mandates AND he is tweeting and encouraging parents to sue their districts. With all of the anti-mandate stuff, to encourage parents to sue their local government is actually treasonous as well as worthy of a hot line call.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote an editorial excoriating Schmitt. The editors titled it: “How Many Missouri Lives Will Eric Schmitt Endanger to Win a Senate Seat?”

“As Missouri’s attorney general, Eric Schmitt’s job on paper is primarily to defend the state’s interests in legal matters. But to watch how he has approached that job in recent months, Missourians would think his main duty is to stamp out medically valid pandemic safety policies wherever they might sprout. Whether it’s a school board member trying to protect students, a city leader trying to protect the local citizenry, or a medical patient whose life could be put at risk by an unvaccinated health care worker, Schmitt has sided against them in court, using Missourians’ tax dollars to do it.null

“Schmitt says he is standing up to big-government intrusion by Washington regarding vaccine mandates — but then he turns around and wields the power of the state to overrule local leaders and school officials on mask mandates, imposing his own judgment (and his own political interests) in place of both local decision-making and medical science. There is nothing conservative about this litigious campaign of anti-science demagoguery. Schmitt is pandering to the irrational right, pure and simple, in his attempt to win next year’s Republican U.S. Senate primary.

Schmitt reached a new low last week, directly appealing to parents to report to his office any school districts that enforce mask policies, which he unilaterally decrees to be in violation of a court order. This extralegal stunt — reminiscent of the tactics of dictatorial strongmen who pit their citizens as informants against one another — ignores the fact that it’s not at all clear that the court’s order applies to mask policies imposed by elected school boards.”

Missourians will die because of Schmitt’s unreasonable opposition to public health measures.

A group committed to equity in schools—the Missouri Equity Education Partnership—posted a list of bills that have been filed for the 2022 session of the Legislature. The group makes no judgment about the bills. If you scan the list, you will see that the general trend is to clamp down on discussions of racism and to guarantee “parent rights.”

The first bill listed is HB 1457, which “prohibits the use of the 1619 Project in public schools.”

Several other state legislatures have already banned this book. Why should the State Legislature have the power to prohibit the use of a specific book? This is censorship. I have read The 1619 Project, and I think it is excellent course material for high school students. As I have written previously, teach the book and teach the criticism of the book, and let students debate the controversy. It will encourage them to think.

Apparently the thought of students reading about racism frightens GOP legislatures. perhaps even more frightening is the idea of students thinking for themselves. Thought control—which this is—should be banned.

The Network for Public Education created a website where. Parents could express their views about their schools. This post was written by Jessica Piper, a mom and a farmer in rural Missouri.

She writes:

I am a rural woman. I am a subsistence farmer raising hogs and chickens in Northwest Missouri in a town of 480 people. I live in a century-old farmhouse on a few acres on the Iowa border that we purchased for less than the price of a new car. I was also an American Literature teacher for sixteen years, and my children are all products of rural schools. Our youngest is still in school and her class, the entire fourth grade, consists of 16 children. 

Public schools are the heart of rural Missouri. The school bus picks up my daughter at the end of our driveway every morning, avoiding the chickens pecking in the gravel. She arrives at a tiny school that supports her and knows her well. She eats in the cafeteria that also serves as the gym. We mark the cafeteria Thanksgiving meal on our calendars to eat lunch with our kids—the turkey is pretty good but we really come for the annual tradition and because our kids expect us. Entire communities gather for Christmas pageants and band and choir concerts in our rural schools. We attend Friday night football and basketball games and reserve the rest of the evenings for softball or baseball. We know the teachers and we support schools with raffles and by buying apples and beef jerky from the yearly FFA sales. Nearly every event in our small community revolves around our school.

I tell you the story of rural schools because we are in a fight to keep our public schools funded and open in Missouri. In my state, we are 49th in funding for public schools. We don’t provide public schools with enough for the basics. The state funds just 32% of schools’ budgets, which means that residents must pay for the bulk of their local school expenses through property taxes. That means that our system is highly inequitable. The defunding of Missouri public schools has happened over the last decade, but has been on warp speed in the last five years. The school funding formula was adjusted to lower the amount a few years back, meaning we lowered the funding bar to be able to claim we met the bar. And now, even more bad news for Missouri rural schools: a voucher scheme.

In 2021, Missouri Republicans devised and signed into law a system for vouchers that will further defund public schools. This is how it works: Missouri taxpayers can receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit that will pay for private school vouchers. In essence, public tax funds will be diverted to private or religious schools with no oversight or accountability for student performance. Missouri will allow folks to essentially pay their taxes directly to the private school of their choice, defunding public schools in the process. In rural Missouri, our schools are already strapped for resources. Diverting money away to any fly-by-night charter, or a private school that accepts vouchers will devastate our rural schools.

When schools are defunded, the next move is often consolidation. When a school consolidates, students may be travelling to and from school for over an hour a day. School consolidations also ravage small communities and often cause ripples that can be felt for years. In my town, the school is the largest employer. Community members who work for the school district receive health insurance through their employer, while disadvantaged children are fed through the school year through the  school free lunch program. School closures cripple small businesses and decrease property values. Our main streets empty out with the loss of a local school. When schools consolidate, rural communities lose their economic epicenter.

We must fully-fund public schools in an equitable way for all children to have the opportunity that a public education promises. Rural students and our small communities count on public schools. Charter and privatization schemes purposely funnel public tax money into private hands. That’s harmful to rural Missouri public schools and to our kids. 


Jessica Piper is a candidate for state representative in rural Northwest Missouri. She received her BA in English and her MA from the University of Arkansas at Monticello. She was a tenured American Literature teacher and frequently writes about rural schools and school funding. She lives on the Missouri/Iowa border with her husband, children, and two dogs. Piper is a farmer who raises hogs and chickens.

An organization of business leaders in St. Louis issued a demand for more “high quality schools” (by which they mean privately managed charter schools). But it’s not clear that charters are synonymous with “high quality schools.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the University of Missouri-St. Louis, which manages seven charter schools in the city, is likely to close one of them. The Arch Community Charter School opened in 2017 and has an enrollment of 95 students.

In fact, charter schools and competition has weakened the city’s struggling public schools.

Here is some useful information from the story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

The potential closure comes as city leaders focus on the fluctuating public school landscape, including a sharp population decline among school-aged children, which dropped to 45,000 from 60,000 over the last decade.

On Thursday, the Education and Youth Matters Committee of the Board of Aldermen will discuss a resolution to support a moratorium on opening new schools and the development of a citywide plan for public education. The resolution would amount to a symbolic ban on charter schools, which are governed by state law.

But after looking at the Arch’s academic records, the school does not have the numbers and planning to meet students’ needs, Marino said.

In 2019, the most recent state data available, 3% of students at the Arch tested proficient or advanced in English and none in math.

UMSL’s decision about Arch follows the closure several months ago of Clay Elementary School, one-half mile away in the Hyde Park neighborhood. That was part of a St. Louis Public Schools downsizing. Enrollment below 200 students was among the criteria considered for closure, and Clay had dropped to 128 students last year.

The aldermanic resolution says: “The local, state, and federal support for school choice programs continues to create a system of schools and programs that fight over a declining population of children and a shrinking pool of resources, leading to duplicated services and system-wide inefficiencies.”

Charter schools enroll close to 12,000 students in the city, while St. Louis Public Schools enrollment dropped below 20,000 last year. The district has lost more than 50% of its enrollment since the first charters opened in 2000.

Open the article to see the graph, which demonstrates the folly of expanding the charter sector, which drains resources and students from a weakened public sector.

The average annual performance score for local charter schools, which includes factors such as attendance, academic achievement, and high school or college preparedness, was 80% in 2018, the most recent figures available. St. Louis Public Schools scored 79%, according to state data.

Of the 30-plus charter schools that have opened in St. Louis since 2000, about half have been shut down for academic or financial failure. Carondelet Leadership Academy was the latest to shutter in June 2020, displacing 400 students and 50 staff members.

One new charter school will open in 2022, sponsored by—wait for it—the Opportunity Trust.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen endorsed the moratorium on new schools and agreed on the need for a master plan for schools. However, the state legislature decides what happens in St. Louis to St. Louis schools. The Republican legislature does not believe in local control..

The board voted 24-1 for a nonbinding resolution that notes that charter schools and the city public school system have been fighting “over a declining population of children and a shrinking pool of resources.”

Supporters included Alderman Marlene Davis, a former city school board president, who said charter schools were forced upon the city by the Missouri Legislature.

Any new restrictions on the opening of additional charter facilities also would have to be imposed by state lawmakers.

“It’s a sin,” said Davis, of the 19th Ward. “We have gone through trauma after trauma” when some charter schools have suddenly closed.

She also complained about the performance of many of them, while acknowledging that there have been a few with adequate or superior records.

“Nobody can tell me that there’s appropriate oversight of these schools,” Davis said.

The resolution also won support from a critic of the city public schools, Alderman Carol Howard, 14th Ward.

“We need a master plan” for all types of schools, said Howard, a retired school principal in the city school system. “We need to all agree — Black, white, whatever — that our children are important.”