Archives for category: St. Louis

Jeff Bryant is doing an article about the St. Louis public schools. As he has delved into the issues, he learned how the state of Missouri has underfunded the schools for years. And he learned something more. The city is gentrifying. It wants young childless couples. Parents of school age children are a burden to the budget.

“As a local St. Louis reporter tells it, during a public meeting about a proposed new $130 million 34-story apartment building in the city, alderman Joe Roddy used a slideshow to make a case for why the city should give the developers 15 years of reduced property taxes, a $10 million subsidy, in exchange for some additional retail space and 305 high-end, luxury apartments downtown.

“In a slide show titled “How the City Makes & Spends Money,” Roddy, a Democrat mind you, laid out a hierarchy of those who “make money” for the city at the top and those who cause the city to “spend money” at the bottom. At the top of his slide were businesses. In the middle were residents with no children and retirees. And at the very bottom – in the tier of city dwellers who place the biggest financial burden on government – were “criminals and residents with children in public school.”

“When told that some might take offense at equating families with children needing free public schools to criminals, Roddy countered that the project would “target tenants who are young professionals without children. Attracting that demographic to the city is crucial, he says, and after the tax abatement ends, the revenue windfall for the city will be significant.”

“By the way, St. Louis has a history of extending tax abatements for developers to longer terms.

“But the thrust of Roddy’s remarks is well understood by all – in a budget environment of forced scarcity, there are increasingly strong demarcations between winners and losers, and parents who plan on sending children to free public schools are increasingly losers.

“To be fair to Roddy, a great deal of St. Louis’s financial constraints, particularly in relation to the city’s ability to cover the cost of education, is the fault of the state of Missouri.

“A 2015 accounting of state school funding found Missouri is “underfunding its K-12 schools by $656 million statewide, nearly 20 percent below the required level.” The budget situation for families with children has not improved a lot since then, with this year’s installment cutting spending on school buses, higher education, and social services.

“Missouri is one of 27 states that spends less on education than it did in 2008.”

There is a trend behind this. Education costs money. Gentrifying cities don’t want children. Does America want to educate its children?

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.

Yesterday I wrote a blog about a tiny rural district in Idaho where the community did everything possible to support their school but it wasn’t good enough. The tax base was so meager that the school was in deficit, and budget cuts were putting the school in peril.

A reader commented that this was an instance where the district might benefit by abandoning its public school and turning it into a charter school. This, the reader said, would make It possible to leverage funds from corporate sponsors.

Another reader responded to the first one and wrote:

“If you turn your tax supported schools over to corporate sponsors, in the process you lose your local representative government.  The corporate sponsors control all aspects of your public school/s-plus they will train your children for whatever the global economy dictates.  I suggest, there will be no upward mobility for your children in that area of Kansas or anywhere else in the USA. These charter schools destroy the “American Dream”. There is an old song that goes something like this:  “I owe my soul to the company store”.  Don’t allow the multi national corporations to do this to our children and destroy their American Dream!  We must, if we are to prevail as a nation, at least give every child the equal opportunity to achieve in the American Dream.”

 “Charter/Choice/Voucher schools destroy the American Dream.  Not only that- they destroy representative government  e. g. local school boards and local representation.  This is taxation without representation.  We fought a war of independence for that principle.  Why have Americans forgotten that?”

I agree with this response. I have come to believe that there is a vital connection between the community and the school. If public policy severs that connection, it is an abandonment of democracy. And in the case of charters, now the fad du jour, it hands children over to wealthy benefactors or corporate interests. I don’t mean to suggest that either wealthy benefactors or corporate interests have evil intent, but that their interests may not coincide with those of parents and the community. Public schools are an instrument of democracy to the extent that they maintain a vital connection with families and their community.

In the past decade, there has been a strong effort to hand schools over to some powerful figure or authority to “fix” them. So we have seen mayoral control in some cities, where the mayor has (in New York City, for example) unlimited authority to do as he wishes without regard to community wishes. This is nothing more nor less than the elimination of representative government. The purpose is to establish autocratic rule, in which the voices of the community don’t count. Schools are closed no matter what their communities say. We have also seen state takeovers (as in Philadelphia and St. Louis) where the state is so ineffective that the public schools are made worse than before the state intervened.

Democracy is hard, but it is still the best form of government that we know. We destroy the notion of public education at our peril.

New “blueprint” for Philadelphia calls for closing of 40 public schools of the city’s 249. They will be replaced by charters.

With more to be closed in the years ahead.

Similar shutdowns of public schools have started or been projected for Detroit, St. Louis, D.C.,  Indianapolis, Cleveland, and Kansas City.

School districts in Pennsylvania are facing bankruptcy, due to competition with charters.

Make no mistake, this is a blueprint for privatization.

This is a reversion to the early 19th century, when wealthy men provided “public” schools for poor children. They were charity schools, managed by philanthropists.

Now in the name of “reform,” the public schools are to be handed over to for-profit and non-profit corporations.

Children, especially minority children, will depend on the charity of the rich.

This is not innovation. This is a return to the way we provided schools for the children of the urban poor 200 years ago.