AFT St. Louis, community leaders praise decision to return local control of public schools

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After a decade of state control of the St. Louis Public Schools, the three-member appointed board governing the city’s schools voted unanimously Jan. 18 to recommend that the state of Missouri return local control of the school district to the city’s elected school board, which has not held governing powers for more than a decade.

The decision of the Special Administrative Board comes on the heels of St. Louis Public Schools being granted full academic accreditation in early 2017, and a push from the community, educators, parents and students working together to demand local accountability and transparency from their public schools.

“Thursday’s decision was the first step in ensuring that our students and their families have the high-quality neighborhood public schools they deserve — places where educators are well-supported, classrooms are well-resourced, and the social and emotional needs of every student are met,” said Sally Topping, president of AFT St. Louis Local 420, the union representing teachers in the district.

“We are encouraged by this first step, but we will continue to work with the community, school administrators and parents until our locally elected school board is fully empowered, the voice of educators is heard and respected, and every school and student has what they need to succeed,” she said.

Following the state appointed board’s vote, the decision now rests with the Missouri State Board of Education, which must vote on whether to return local control to the people of St. Louis and their elected leaders.

‘PARENTS AND TAXPAYERS WANT ACCOUNTABILITY’

“For years, the people of this city fought to get their voice back in education, and this decision moves us a little closer. Parents and taxpayers, just like me, want accountability and transparency in public education, and that is what we will continue to fight for,” said St. Louis Public Schools Elected Board President Susan Jones.

“Now more than ever, the elected school board — in collaboration with educators, parents and the community — is focused on turning the page and guaranteeing that all St. Louis students have the world-class education that will prepare them for career, college and citizenship,” Jones said.

‘A HUGE VICTORY’

“This is a huge victory for the parents, educators, community and students who have worked tirelessly to win local and democratic control of their schools,” AFT’s national President Randi Weingarten said. “First by fighting to regain accreditation, and now through this action, they have never wavered in their efforts to ensure St. Louis students have the public schools they deserve. Thanks to their tireless advocacy, the public schools of St. Louis are now one step closer to being fully accountable to the citizens of the Gateway City.

“Working together, the citizens of St. Louis have joined a national trend of cities regaining their voice in public education through democratically elected and accountable local control. Local and democratic control of public education is the only way to ensure that students’ needs — based on what parents and educators know works for their kids and their neighborhoods — are the priority of school decision-makers.”

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