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State Education Policy Makes Strange Bedfellows The St. Louis Schools and the Politics of the School Transfer Law Kathleen Sullivan Brown, UMSL 9-23-13.

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Presentation on theme: "State Education Policy Makes Strange Bedfellows The St. Louis Schools and the Politics of the School Transfer Law Kathleen Sullivan Brown, UMSL 9-23-13."— Presentation transcript:

1 State Education Policy Makes Strange Bedfellows The St. Louis Schools and the Politics of the School Transfer Law Kathleen Sullivan Brown, UMSL 9-23-13

2 How did we arrive at this place? State Accreditation of Schools History of Local School Districts & Local Control No Child Left Behind & School Accountability Reliance on local property taxes to fund K-12 education

3 School Accreditation Process We used to have “Triple A” schools. Then we moved to a five-year review process that looked at inputs & outcomes: facilities, teacher credentials, graduation rates, etc. Teams visited the districts. Following NCLB, we started to look at outcomes and performance of ALL students. School improvement process became a “continuous improvement” process.

4 History of Local School Districts 22 Districts range from very small (Brentwood 772) to very large (Rockwood – 22,268 & Hazelwood – 17,752 and SLPS - 22,516). They are critically important to community identity and an important source of jobs. Only two districts have ever been dissolved (the Berkeley district in the pre-deseg days) and Wellston.

5 No Child Left Behind Policies George Bush was able to get bi-partisan support in Congress for NCLB (2001). By 2014, all children would be achieving above average or “proficient.” Liberal problem of “failing public schools.” Conservative embrace of charter schools to challenge “government schooling” and the “education monopoly” (i.e., teacher unions). Charter schools as the “market-based” solution.

6 Reliance on Local Property taxes to fund K-12 Education What percentage of K-12 spending does the federal government provide? On average, only 7-8% It was slightly higher (12%) during the “stimulus” years. K-12 education is a STATE program, funded by local communities and primarily by local property taxes.

7 Rationale for LOCAL CONTROL Missouri, like many states, strongly endorses the philosophy of “local control.” If local communities and parents are engaged and active in their schools, they will oversee them and use all the resources they can muster to support them. Following court challenges (1970s & 1980s), the state provides a FOUNDATION LEVEL OF SUPPORT, supposedly counteracting the most egregious inequities.

8 The Outstanding Schools Act Before NCLB, Missouri adopted the SB 380 The Outstanding Schools Act, which provided for MAP testing, dedicated teacher professional development funds, and many other innovations. In 1993, it was revised and included the transfer provision, aimed at St. Louis city and St. Louis County.

9 A Perfect Storm: A Policy Invoked 20 years later State accreditation standards ratcheting upwards each year (NCLB and TQM). Local control & reliance on local property taxes. Emphasis on standardized testing instead of instruction. A state average spending per pupil at $9500 (47 th in nation). Underfunding of foundation formula, every year since 2005. Repeated leadership changes in struggling districts.

10 Turner/Breitenfeld cases Family in SLPS enrolled children in Clayton Schools & signed a contract to pay out-of- district tuition. Then sued to get SLPS to pay Clayton tuition because of loss of SLPS accreditation. Court case went up and down from district court to Missouri Supreme Court for seven years.

11 Legislative Inaction The Missouri Supreme Court decision July 16, 2010 suggested that the court would rule in favor of students transfers. But DESE, the State Board of Education, regional education leaders and the Legislature did nothing to address the possibility. Focus was on Clayton. School choice advocates prevented any moves to create a “Turner fix.”

12 The Supreme Court decides Repeating their wording, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that RSMo 167.131 would stand, as written. “The language is clear and unambiguous.” The decision came down on June 13, 2013. School started in Francis Howell on August 5, 2013.

13 Two Struggling Districts Normandy 4,207 students (2012) A brand-new Superintendent Current expenditures $48M Riverview Gardens 6,000 students (2012) A brand-new Superintendent Current expenditures $51M

14 Guidelines from DESE DESE issued a set of guidelines, although they did not have the force of law. The two unaccredited districts could identify at least one district to which they would pay tuition and transportation. If parents chose other districts, they would get tuition but not transportation support.

15 “Tag! You’re it!” Riverview Gardens (in North County) selected Mehlville in far South County as the one district they would support with transportation services. Normandy went across county lines to St. Charles and selected Francis Howell as its district of choice for transportation.

16 Chaos reigns As word of the transfer possibilities surfaced in the communities involved, it appeared that chaos was rampant. Parents did not know the rules (if any existed). Districts did not know how they were affected. Media (print, radio, TV) went crazy. Social media and district websites uncovered serious racial polarization.

17 CSD to the rescue Don Senti, a former superintendent in Clayton, now the head of Cooperating School Districts, took the lead in setting up an application process for transfer students. CSD processed several thousand students in just a 6-week period. Families could identify three district preferences and were assigned according to grade level and availability.

18 But, wait, what about…? Many details had to be worked out: How much tuition did the receiving district get, and when, and how? Schools have a census date, usually end of September to count “actual” attendance. What if the “sending” districts went bankrupt? How would “receiving” districts get their tuition funds? What if a student “rescinded” (went back to their home district)? Within days, 20% of Riverview Gardens students went back home.

19 Bankruptcy & Dissolution, or Consolidation? Normandy is paying $1.5 million each month for tuition to other districts. They estimate they will be out of funding by February 2014. Riverview Gardens has a slightly bigger surplus and may last another year.

20 Waiting in the wings… MSIP5, the new state accreditation process that began this year, raises the benchmarks over 3 years. It is possible that more districts will become unaccredited in the next two or three years. What happens then? How can we plan ahead for these eventualities? What if we had a tornado, like Joplin? Do we know where the spaces are to support student learning? Why can we not act regionally? The Governor chose NOT to call a special session. So, the Legislature will take up the question in January 2014. Will they repeal RSMo 167.131? Will we start all over?

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