When six failing schools close in an unaccredited school district, where do the students go?
That is the question facing Saint Louis officials and one that may have significant implications for state education policy. At the end of the school year, the six Imagine charter schools in the City of Saint Louis will close. The Imagine Schools have had a host of financial and academic troubles, with some reports raising questions of financial misconduct.
When the Imagine schools close, they will leave 3,000 or more students searching to find a new school. The NAACP, in a letter to state Commissioner of Education Chris Nicastro, estimates that there are only 500 open seats in city charter schools. The remaining Imagine school students’ only publicly provided option is to attend a school in the city’s public school district. The problem is, Saint Louis Public Schools (SLPS) have been unaccredited for years.
Though the Missouri Supreme Court recently ruled that students in an unaccredited district like SLPS must be allowed to transfer to an accredited district, the Imagine school students are not being given the option to attend nearby suburban districts.
Recently, the Saint Louis City firefighters filed a lawsuit to allow their children into nearby accredited schools. It now looks likely that the NAACP will join the fight for expanded educational choice in the Saint Louis area.
The NAACP is strongly advocating that the Imagine students be given a chance to choose a quality school in an accredited district. Adolphus Pruitt, the local NAACP’s director, has said that litigation is likely, and that attorneys are being interviewed.
When will the pressure in Saint Louis be enough to convince state legislators that a solution is needed? Saint Louis would not be mired in this situation if public funding for education could follow students to any school of their choosing. Instead, public education dollars in Missouri are tied to school districts, and subject to a convoluted and outdated funding formula. If legislators do not bring forward a solution, it seems likely that educational choice will be forced through more litigation.