AFT Local 420, St. Louis Public Schools parents rally against opening of more charter schools in the city

0
94
PROTESTERS including representatives from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Local 420, St. Louis Public Schools’ (SLPS) Parent Action Council and Journey for Justice held an informational picket Dec. 4 outside the offices Opportunity Trust, the organization behind the proposed Believe STL Academy, another charter school effort aimed at privatizing public schools in the city. – Labor Tribune photo

By TIM ROWDEN
Editor-in-Chief

American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Local 420, St. Louis Public Schools’ (SLPS) Parent Action Council and Journey for Justice held an informational picket Dec. 4 outside “Delmar Divine,” a mixed-use development that houses Opportunity Trust, the organization behind Believe STL Academy and other school privatization efforts, calling out the lies and tax incentives being used to promote charter schools in the city.

The next day Believe won approval from the Missouri State Board of Education to become St. Louis’ next charter school.

The picket was part of a broader public campaign to save SLPS from what organizers call the continued intentional disorganization and destruction of public schools by billionaires.

“This is all about democracy,”  Local 420 spokesman Byron Clemens said. “We have a representative elected school board. These folks (at Opportunity Trust) weren’t elected to anything. Eric Scroggins makes more money than the superintendent of St. Louis Public Schools. He’s not qualified to do anything. His teaching certificate is expired. He’s not an educational expert. When they talk about what they’re going to do for the kids of St. Louis as if they care about them, think about this building. Did they pay for it? No, the parents and taxpayers of St. Louis public schools paid for it. They got TIFs and tax abatements to build this thing. They don’t care about kids. Follow the money. The $70 million they’ve accumulated to privatize schools in Missouri. And they got a grant from the Department of Education.”

Opportunity Trust was launched in 2019 with the support of local and national philanthropists, spearheaded by founder and chief executive officer Eric Scroggins.

When protestors presumed to be parents in support of charter schools disrupted a SLPS board meeting in October, Clemens said they were paid for by Opportunity Trust.

“We will fight. We will not give up,” Clemens said. “We will fight for the SLPS and we’re going to fight to make charter schools accountable.”

CHARTER SCHOOLS
Charter schools are publicly funded but operated by nonprofit boards. In Missouri, charter schools can open in St. Louis and Kansas City and in school districts that are continually underperforming.

Charters have had a mixed record since they first opened in St. Louis in 2000 with a goal of improving student performance and keeping families in the city. More than half of the 37 charter school operators that came to the city have folded due to financial or academic failures.

Believe school expects to have 440 students in ninth through 12th grades by 2027, according to its application. The school is an expansion of Believe Circle City High School in Indianapolis, which Neal-Brannum opened in fall of 2020. The average GPA at the school last year was 2.3, and more than 10 percent of students were suspended for fighting, according to board minutes.

‘OUR CHILDREN ARE NOT FAILURES’
Speakers at the Dec. 4 event, including Gloria Nolan, parent liaison for SLPS, said there are too many schools for a dwindling number of students in the city. St. Louis has 19 SLPS or charter high schools with an average enrollment of 384. By comparison, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, districts in St. Louis County with similar student enrollment, including Hazelwood, Parkway and Rockwood, have three or four high schools with an average of 1,500 students each.

“We are here to let the people know that more school choice will not save our most vulnerable students,” Nolan said. “School choice is a ploy to privatize public schools for profit. Our important work is to preserve democratically run public education by fighting against the expansion and opening of any new charter schools, starting with Believe STL Academy.

“Our children are not failures,” Nolan said. “Our students are more than standardized high stakes test results, which consistently highlight the disparities between the privileged and the unprivileged. Organizations like the Opportunity Trust exploit low test scores an argue for the dismantling of public education so they can opt for more school choice. We are here to let the people know that more school choice will not save our most vulnerable students. School choice is a ploy to privatize schools for profit.

“The St. Louis Board of Education has filed a lawsuit to stop the opening of Believe Academy and we stand in solidarity with St. Louis Public Schools,” Nolan said.


 

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here