By TIM ROWDEN
AFT St. Louis Local 420, the union representing St. Louis Public Schools teachers, is calling for the City of St. Louis Board of Estimate and Apportionment and members of the St. Louis Board of Education to attend an “Education Summit” to lay the groundwork for a plan that leads to fully funding St. Louis Public Schools as part of a vision to revitalize neighborhoods and grow the city.
Dr. Kelvin Adams, superintendent of schools, has recommended the closure and consolidation of 11 schools in the district, including historic Sumner High School, but last week recommended postponing a vote on the closures until January to allow district leaders time to meet with community members and staff from each of the schools.
The other schools Adams has recommended closing are Clay, Dunbar, Farragut, Ford, Hickey and Monroe elementary schools; Fanning Middle School; and Cleveland Naval Jr. ROTC and Northwest high schools. Carnahan High would convert to a middle school over the next few years.
CHANGING THE DIALOGUE
Adams has said that closing the schools would allow more resources to be allocated to the remaining schools.
But AFT says elected leaders and school officials should consider all sources of funding, including the impact tax abatements awarded to developers have on the ability to fully fund district schools.
“We welcome an opportunity to change the dialogue from closing schools to fully funding schools,” said Ray Cummings, interim president of Local 420.
“We have worked with politically appointed boards and elected boards. From gaining full accreditation to working with Organized Labor to pass bond issues; from expanding Pre-K to working with numerous community partners, we have done our part,” Cummings said. “It is time to bring the parties together.”
OPPOSITION TO CLOSINGS
The St. Louis Board of Aldermen passed a resolution opposing the closures plan on Dec. 11.
The League of Women Voters of Metro St. Louis also has come out against the closures, which they note would have “serious consequences” on children, parents, district employees and the neighborhoods in which the schools are located.
Byron Clemens, spokesperson for AFT St. Louis, delivered the invitation to the Board of Education and City Board of Estimate, and asked parents and the community for their support.
“Parents, taxpayers, the community-at-large and elected officials have an opportunity to show that we have the long-term best interests of children up front,” Clemens said.
“Data tells us that small learning communities with wraparound, community-based, full-service schools are the answer. Fully funding public schools provides the educational, social-emotional, nutritional and psychological benefits that are desirable for all students. We look forward to starting a real conversation about investing in children.”