Published by Missouri Political News Service
Thursday, January 29, 2009
“You tell me you love me but then you are choking me.” This is how one St. Louis resident described what the Special Administrative Board (SAB) of the St. Louis Public School District (SLPS) is doing by placing a 100 year deed restriction on the buildings of schools that have been closed by the SAB. Simply stated, the SAB has voted unanimously to not allow anyone who purchases the buildings to reopen the buildings as a school. This is an outrageous policy that has been adopted by the SAB since it first decided on closing schools in 2007. With the potential announcement for more closings soon, this is a policy that cannot continue. This policy indeed puts a chokehold on a community desperate for quality educational options for their children.
These school buildings were built with tax payer money for the express purpose of educating the children in the community. Keeping these buildings off limits to someone seeking to purchase the building, with the intent of opening a public charter or independent private school, defeats this purpose. Furthermore, to restrict the sale of these buildings to the most obvious buyer in the current economic climate makes no business sense. School districts are consistently saying that they need more money to operate but this policy is making a direct adverse impact on the funds available to the district for educating the children of St. Louis.
Many parents in the city lack the means to transport their children longer distances to a different school building. Those children who now walk to a school down the street in the neighborhood will now have to walk longer distances to a school outside of the neighborhood. And as State Representative TD El- Amin stated in a recent online video produced by CEAM on this topic, “there is gang activity and it is very territorial. That is something that people don’t consider.” Students will be afraid to cross into new neighborhoods, as they will be crossing into a gang territory that is outside of their neighborhood. Sadly, all of these factors may lead to an increase in St. Louis’ already high dropout rate.
In addition to the increased burden placed on the children in the communities the parents will suffer as well. Neighborhood schools are often a source of pride and stabilization in the community. These buildings will sit vacant and in a state of disrepair, further dragging down home values in already distressed communities in a very bad housing market.
The policy will also put St. Louis further behind other cities in the country and region when it comes to possible funds from President Obama’s proposed stimulus package. Part of this proposed plan is to give money to schools to upgrade their infrastructure and buildings. If these buildings are not being used as schools, then the city will miss out on money that could be used for better educational facilities for our children.
So you may wonder why the SAB would implement a policy that is so obviously wrong for the City of St. Louis. The answer is really in one word that defines the American spirit, competition. The SAB does not want to see more public charter schools or independent schools open in the City and succeed where they have failed. This selfish interest is the most outrageous component of this policy. The SAB should want that all children in the city to receive a good education, regardless of whether it is provided by SLPS or by a charter or private school.
The fact that the three members on the SAB have this much power to set our community so far behind is unacceptable. The board can easily reverse their decision but they must hear from the residents of the community. The Children’s Education Alliance of Missouri is calling on the SAB to immediately lift the deed restrictions on current and future closed public school buildings. Residents of the City and the metro area should show the SAB that they are not willing to support this harmful policy.
Earl Simms, State Coordinator
Children’s Education Alliance of Missouri
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