Search results for: "Normandy"

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.

Inda Schaenen is an eighth grade English language arts teacher at Normandy Middle School in Ferguson, Missouri. She writes in Education Week about how students were affected by the death of Michael Brown and how she as a teacher was affected.

School started nine days after the shooting.

“Even before the shooting and the dramatic aftermath broadcast around the world, our district was accustomed to being and bearing bad news. Normandy is a poor, predominantly African-American community beset by challenges in housing, employment, and access to social, emotional, and physical health care.

“In January 2013, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education stripped the Normandy school system of its accreditation. The district consequently lost close to 25 percent of its students (and related education funding) to a transfer program that was upheld by the Missouri Supreme Court. Then, on July 1 of this year, the state board of education officially took over the Normandy district; meanwhile, the transfer program’s fate continues to play out in the state courts….

“I was assigned to teach 8th grade language arts; I now work in circumstances that daily, even hourly, challenge the most seasoned of the seasoned veterans. Middle school teaching is a new experience for me, and my learning curve is beyond steep; it’s a cliff. In rock-climbing terms, I am “crack climbing”-locating available seams, trying any grip, using all of who I am to gain purchase during my ascent. I am working 18 hours a day.”

The tragedy is the background and often in the foreground of school.

She writes:

“Will I be able to make what happens in my classroom so compelling that these children will feel it’s worth their time to come in and take a seat alongside the 32 others in my classroom?

“Now, factor in the shooting, followed by the protests, the looting, the hyper-militarized reaction to the protests and looting, and the local reaction to the reaction. Many of our students showed up at school traumatized; teachers, too. The granddaughter of one of my colleagues was related to Michael Brown. Another staff member was his great-aunt. In many ways, north St. Louis County is one community….

“Since Aug. 9, there is the unspoken but ever-present awareness, especially among the boys, that life can end in a flash, even for the kids-like Michael Brown-who manage to navigate the system and graduate…..

“Over and over, I assure my students that I will not leave. That I am here for them. That principals and teachers are working together to figure out how to get our school right, or at least more right…..

Are we as a society willing to address the needs of these children, these communities? The answer seems to be no. We want them to have higher scores, and the state will punish their teachers if they don’t get higher scores. But we refuse to address or acknowledge the conditions in which they live, or our obligation to change them.”

Michael Brown, the youth who was killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri, graduated from Normandy High School. You may recall reading here that the Normandy School District, which was 98% African-American, was merged by the state with the nearby Wellston School District, which was 100% African-American.

Michael’s graduation picture was taken in March 2014. Why so far ahead of the graduation date? The high school had only two graduation gowns, and they had to be shared by the entire class. Mark Sumner tells the story of Michael Brown’s high school on The Daily Kos, and it is heartbreaking.

“The grinding poverty in Mike’s world only allowed Normandy High School to acquire two graduation gowns to be shared by the entire class. The students passed a gown from one to the other. Each put the gown on, in turn, and sat before the camera to have their graduation photographs taken. Until it was Mike’s turn.

“What kind of American school would have to share robes across the entire senior class?
The kind that’s been the subject of a lot of attention from the state board of education.

“This district was created by merging two of the poorest, most heavily minority districts around St. Louis—Normandy and Wellston. The poverty rate for families sending their kids to Normandy Schools was 92 percent. At Wellston School District, the poverty rate was 98 percent. Every single student in the Wellston district was African American.

“Still, the state education board voted to merge the districts in 2010 (the first change to state school district boundaries in thirty-five years). Plagued by white flight, crashing property values that destroyed tax revenues, and a loss of state funds as the better-off residents of the area sent their children to private schools, the resulting district isn’t just short of gowns, it’s short of everything. Residents of the district voted again and again to raise their own property taxes, until their rates were actually the highest in the state, but a higher percentage of nothing was still nothing, and district revenues trended steadily down.”

And more:

“So who actually runs Michael Brown’s school district? Well, the president of the board of education is Peter F. Herschend of Branson, Missouri. Herschend isn’t a former teacher, or a former principal, and doesn’t have any training in the education field. He’s the owner of Herschend Family Entertainment, which runs Silver Dollar City and other amusement parks. He’s also one of the biggest contributors to the Republican Party in the state.

“So, when you’re wondering who runs Michael Brown’s school district—when you’re wondering who’s in control of an urban, minority district so poor that the students have only two graduation gowns to share—it’s a white Republican millionaire from out state.”

A reader comments:

“I do the alumni newspaper for Normandy High School in suburban St. Louis, a school which has lost its accreditation and gotten nothing but grief from the state education folks and certainly no realistic help. I think, however, that is about to change. The state people finally brought in experts who told them no school district serving needy communities anywhere in this country has managed to get its test scores up where the standards demand they be. What is needed is not this myopic obsession with standardized teaching and test scores but an educational philosophy where the talents and dreams of each and every child are identified and educated with that in mind and communities get help TO help children who come from one-parent homes, broken homes, multigenerational homes and blended homes and start school with almost none of the cultural equipment kids in the well-to-do-suburbs have, not to mention parttime parenting, nourishment problems, health problems and emotional problems. The parents are often working multiple jobs to keep a roof over their families’ heads and food in the kids’ mouths and it drives me nuts when THEY are blamed as the problem. They are doing the best they can. I’ve written extensively about this. I am a journalist and a teacher in his 50th year of teaching (look me up on google).”

Wayne Brasler