By Douglas P. Thaman, Executive Director – Missouri Charter Public Schools Association
Sixty-two years ago, on May 17, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered their ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, a decision changing education in the United States forever and confirming what sits at the core of being an American: every child, regardless of their ethnicity or socioeconomic background has a right to a quality education and deserves a chance at success! Martin Luther King, Jr. was right when he said the Brown ruling was “a great beacon light of hope.” Today there are more public school opportunities for all children in St. Louis including 35 charter public schools serving one third of the City’s public school student population.
At the Missouri Charter Public School Association, we are proud of the role the charter public schools in St. Louis play and work they are doing helping close the achievement gap and providing minority and low-income students with a path out of poverty. Charter public schools are independent, tuition-free schools given the freedom to be more innovative while being held accountable for advancing student achievement. Charter public schools in St. Louis provide an excellent education to over 10,500 students. These students come from all ‘walks of life’, 70% African American, 20% White, 82% receiving free or reduced lunch and bring a diversity of strengths, abilities, and challenges.
The value of this important public school choice is without measure. This is why we request the St. Louis Public Schools (SLPS) Special Administrative Board (SAB) withdraw their unconscionable legal motion against the State of Missouri. Charter public school students in St. Louis already receive less than $9,000 for their education compared to over $14,000 SLPS has for each student. Yet the District wants more ‘off the backs’ of charter public school students. This Motion at the very least could result in another 10% reduction for each charter public school student and at the worst many charter public schools forced to file bankruptcy and close.
The District’s argument that charter public schools should join with them to fight the State is a ‘red herring’. This would essentially mean negotiating and accepting that charter public school students are worth less than other public school students; THEY ARE NOT! When it comes to the public education of ALL St. Louis students we must think differently, act creatively, move expeditiously and when it comes to funding should ALL be working together for equity. The stakes are simply too high to do otherwise.
The future of St. Louis depends on moving past the traditional vs. charter arguments and working collaboratively to ensure that every family in the City has excellent public school options. The growth and competitiveness of our entire region is dependent on a highly educated workforce, and St. Louis must not be left behind. A sector of public schools should not be working to snuff out the “beacon light” of over 10,000 other public school students. Instead, ALL public schools in St. Louis should be working together to ensure the “great beacon light of hope” comes with an assurance that every child’s education is equitably funded.
St. Louis Public Schools Special Administrative Board, DO THE RIGHT THING and #DropTheSuit!
For more information regarding the St. Louis Public Schools lawsuit against the State of Missouri visit http://www.mocharterschools.org/.