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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Ban Charter Schools, Says School Board Member to City

Posted By on Thu, Feb 12, 2009 at 8:30 AM

Last Friday, St. Louis Public Schools' Elected School Board member David Jackson Jr. sent a formal request to three city aldermen asking them to introduce legislation barring any more charter schools from opening in the city.

"Currently charter schools in the city deflect approximately $75 million dollars a year away from the SLPS," Jackson writes. "This has put the SLPS in somewhat of a financial crisis, as it relates to providing quality education for its students, achieving accreditation and the possibility of lapsing the district."

Jackson appealed to Alderman Charles Quincy Troupe (Ward 1), Alderwoman Dorothy Kirner (Ward 25) and Alderman Craig Schmid (Ward 20).

Jackson cites President Barack Obama's promise to increase funding for charter schools as one reason the Board of Aldermen should implement the suggested moratorium.

As I reported last week here on the Stlog (and in this week's paper), the St. Louis Public Schools already bar charter schools from purchasing a dormant school building. The state-sanctioned Special Administrative Board put that policy in place in December of last year.

The Elected School Board, to which Jackson belongs, has no power but meets regularly in an advisory capacity. 

Read his entire letter to the aldermen after the jump.

"Honorable Alderpersons,

"I am writing you this letter because as a taxpaying citizen of the City of St. Louis, I have noticed over the years that the three of you have appeared to be sincerely interested in the Public Education System here in St. Louis. Your concern and involvement have been both public and vocal.

"As a parent of children in the St. Louis Public Schools and as a member of the Board of Education of the District, I am compelled to request and humbly ask that you consider introducing legislation at the Board of Alderman on declaring a Moratorium on any additional new charter schools within the City of St. Louis.

"As you may or may not be aware of the City of St. Louis and the City of Kansas City are the only two metropolitan areas in the State of Missouri authorized by the Missouri Legislature to accept charter schools within the school districts. These charter schools must and can only be sponsored by the local public school district or any higher educational institution within the metropolitan statistical area. Currently there are nineteen (19) such charter schools within the St. Louis statistical area. The State of Missouri had sponsored a charter school locally which was located on Goodfellow Avenue at the old Army Personnel building, but the management company found they could not make their programs work so they requested to be released from their contract with the State and discontinued its operations. Also there was a different opinion in education philosophy between the original founders and the contracted management company of the Ethel Hedgeman Lyle Charter School located at Jefferson and Washington Avenues and the school separated into two totally separate entities. It must be noted and according to the previous U.S. Secretary of Education, nationally thirty (30) percent of all charter schools are underperforming public schools. These charter schools are exempt from federal and state mandates. There are no set accountability standards in place with these charters and the Missouri Department of Secondary and Elementary Education.

"In addition, as you know the Mayor of the City of St. Louis has instructed his administration to notify and solicit Charter School Management Companies for expansion of Charter Schools within the City of St. Louis and has a development plan in place to assist and support of the development of two (2) Charter Schools a year, for the next ten (10) years, for a total of 20 charters. As you are aware the Mayor has a bill pending in the Missouri House giving him authorization to sponsor charter schools. Currently charter schools in the City deflect approximately $75 million dollars a year away from the SLPS. This has put the SLPS in somewhat of a financial crisis, as it relates to providing quality education for its students, achieving accreditation and the possibility of lapsing the district.

"Justification for Moratorium on Charter Schools - 1. The President of the United States is preparing to increase funding (double) to charter schools subject to the following: a. States will be required to improve accountability for charter schools. b. Charters must allow for interventions in struggling charter schools. 2. States must have a clear process for closing down underperforming charter schools. 3. To allow the State of Missouri, its Legislature and the Department of Secondary and Elementary Education the necessary time and preparation, to develop a plan for implementation of the President's initiatives. 4. To allow the existing and current charter schools time to develop their plans for the President's initiatives and their sustainability. 5. To allow the SLPS to research and review any and all opportunities for consideration of sponsorship and true partnerships with charter schools.

"Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation and support with this request. Please feel free in contacting me personally, should you require any additional information regarding the St. Louis Public Schools and Charter Schools, and the impact they both have in the City of St. Louis."

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