The Missouri State Board of Education’s vote to authorize a temporary Transitional School Board came after months of careful consideration of the academic and financial situation, the inquiry and report by the Danforth/Freeman special advisory committee and the input of hundreds of citizens through a scientifically conducted public opinion survey, letters and phone calls to the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and a public meeting.
Although the issue stirs many passions and generates many opinions, we are not acting because of recent or fleeting reverses. Our overriding concern is the long-standing inability of the district to function effectively and educate the children of St. Louis.
Some believe that the district’s problems started with the election of four new board members in 2003. In fact, academic underperformance has been an issue for far longer, and serious financial problems became evident in 2001. Between July 1, 2001, and June 30, 2003, the system spent $60 million more than it took in and, as a result, exhausted its reserves.
The rapid turnover of superintendents and declining academic performance resulted in persistent instability and confrontations that have drained public confidence in the district.
Paying off the debt that the district has incurred to keep the system afloat will be difficult and controversial, especially because the number of students continues to decline. To meet these coming challenges successfully, the district needs the strongest possible board, as well as the support of the community.