Today, the Missouri Board of Education took an important step towards joining education officials in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, and Philadelphia in looking for a better way to administer a failing urban school district.
Over the past 20 years, the St. Louis public school district has failed students, employees, regional employers, and City taxpayers alike. So, I welcome and support today’s decision by the state Board of Education to relieve the district’s hopelessly dysfunctional school board of its duties.
Half the kids who start in the St. Louis public schools do not graduate. Many of those who do graduate don’t have the skills to go to college or get a good job. Only one in ten high school kids can do math at grade. Only one-third of third graders can read at grade level. Almost a third of third graders cannot read at all.
Some people will complain about the state Board’s action regarding an elected school board. The fact is that many City parents have voted with their feet. Thousands of families have left the City for better public schools elsewhere. In the 1970s, this district had more than 100,000 kids. Today, the district enrolls fewer than 33,000 students. And far fewer attend on any given school day.
I have three hopes for the St. Louis public schools: a smooth transition into its interim new governance; a steady improvement in student achievement; and some common efforts over the next few years by both the supporters and opponents of the interim system to identify a better permanent way to administer a public school district.