Protesters and other advocates achieve a chance for Charter schools

Coverage from KMOX highlights a march organized by Democrats For Education Reform Midwest on Friday, April 16th, 2009.  The march in favor of lifting the deed restrictions happily coincided with the Special Administrative Board’s announcement that they had voted to lift deed restrictions that kept Charter schools from purchasing former public schools.

Protestors get what they want — chance for charters

Kevin Killeen Reporting

ST. LOUIS (KMOX Radio) — A crowd of protestors marching on St. Louis public school headquarters errupted into cheers this morning, as they learned the district will allow the sale of empty school buildings to groups seeking to set up charter schools.

The three-member state board running St. Louis public schools made the decision last night in closed session,
reversing a long- standing district policy against selling school buildings to rival educational institutions.

Among the protestors, State Representative T.D. El Amin called the decision good news for students and neighborhoods.

“Charter schools are public schools and this is America,” El Amin said, “We believe that competition should make you better, not bitter.”

The head of the three-member state panel acknowledged that the decision was influenced by state lawmakers who have been pushing for a change in the deed restriction rule.

“We have worked with our elected leaders at the state capital in resolving this issue, and we appreciate their support in finding a resolution where we can enhance the education for all our city students,” said Rick Sullivan, President and CEO of the SAB.

Right now there are ten vacant school buildings in the district on the real estate market. The district has 71 other active school buildings. Plans are in the works to close another 14 schools at the end of the school year, but not all the closed schools would be sold, according to District spokesman Patrick Wallace.

“We have to keep some buildings on hold for future needs and the possibility that enrollment could go up,” Wallace said. Currently there are some 27 thousand students in the district, down from 43 thousand a decade ago.

The district is also struggling with money problems — a current budget deficit of 36 million dollars. Superintendent Dr. Kelvin Adams has announced plans to present a balanced budget for the fiscal year that starts July first.

Closing fourteen more buildings at the end of this school year would save the district about 15 million dollars, according to Wallace. That would leave another 21 million dollars to make up somehow, possibly through the sale of some school buildings.

Those attending the rally in favor of charter schools said they don’t know of any immediate plans to purchase district buildings and open charter schools.