I wrote this initially as a letter to the editor, in July, 2006, when the state used new accreditation standards to take over the St. Louis School District. The newspaper did not publish it. Now, Democrats in St. Louis are calling on candidates to support giving the school district back to local control and my comments on the appropriateness of Missouri controlling local city schools are as fitting as ever.
Before people start celebrating state takeover of the St. Louis Public Schools as the answer to its problems, consider that Missouri is the same state that:
*Required segregated schools in its constitution until the 1980s.
*Fought — at every court level — being held accountable for St. Louis school segregation.
*Resisted nearly every court-ordered state expenditure to remove the vestiges of segregation and to improve the education of all St. Louis children.
*Defeated any chance that state, local and court officials would work together for the common good — an improved education for all children, regardless of their race, residence or socio-economic status.
*Created a statewide testing program and promised it would never be used to punish school districts.
*Promptly tied student test scores to accreditation and state funding.
*Has not addressed in its recently adopted testing program the immediately recognized gap in test scores between white and black students – regardless of their district.
*Has therefore unfairly penalized districts where African-Americans are the majority.
This is the state that elected John Ashcroft as governor and U.S. Senator, thereby validating his efforts opposing the desegregation cases in both St. Louis and Kansas City.
Alongside racial politics, add the animosity between rural, suburban and urban voters, the current situation of extreme partisanship of elected officials that pits Republicans against Democrats in displays of raw power, the common good be damned.
What makes anyone think that state-level educators and a state-appointed board would be any more able to resist politics than locally elected officials?