Sometime during the next couple of months, the state’s Board of Education will consider the likelihood that a student enrolled in the St. Louis Public School District today will graduate with the skills she needs to go to college, get a good job, and be a participating citizen.
I expect the state Board to come to the same conclusions that almost everyone else has: that the school district is mired in a crisis decades in the making, and that the current system of governance (direct citywide election of seven board members) cannot undo the damage of thirty years of decline.
Those conclusions will place two competing values — elective school boards and educated children at odds with each other.
As much as I cherish the notion of direct elections, I hope the state Board puts children ahead of ballots. It is clear to most people that the status quo in untenable.
The proposal recommended by the Danforth-Freeman Committee falls far short of a state or a mayoral takeover, either of which I would also have supported, but it changes the governance and the management of a failed district by removing those functions from the oversight of the St. Louis Board of Education and entrusting governance and management to a three-person board for the next several years.
Most people won’t notice the difference: more than 80 percent of the City’s voters skipped at least one of the past three school board elections.
I believe that the compromise proposed by Danforth-Freeman is really the last best chance that tens of thousands of City public school children have of getting a good, free education. Right now, that opportunity eludes most children enrolled in the St. Louis Public School District.