The state school board voted Thursday to strip the accreditation from the St. Louis school district and take control of its struggling schools.
The 5-1 vote came after angry students chanting “No Takeovers!” temporarily shut down the meeting. One student was handcuffed by Capitol Police after a brief foot chase.
Under the board’s decision, a transitional, three-person board, formed by state and district officials, will take over the St. Louis schools on June 15. The locally elected board will remain in place but have no power.
The roughly 32,000-student district has struggled academically and financially for years. Its operating budget has shown a negative balance for each of the past four years, and a special state panel appointed to recommend ways to improve the schools recommended that an unelected board to run the district.
Many of the students who drove to the Capitol to protest the move said they were concerned that if the district was unaccredited they would have a difficult time when applying for college.
“This is our future, and they are messing it up when they take away accreditation from us,” said Johnnie Fields, 17, a senior from Gateway High School.
“With the takeover, that will lead to more consequences for the students, more obstacles for going into higher education, and overall it’s just not fair,” added Kaylan Holloway, 15, of Soldan High School.
Scholarships at risk?
Jim Morris, a spokesman for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said last week that loss of accreditation should not affect students’ scholarships or future school acceptances, although he noted the department cannot control decisions by individual institutions.
Before the vote, State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education staff said the St. Louis school district had failed to meet both academic and financial standards.
The district met only four of the 14 performance standards set by the state, failing in such areas as middle and high school math scores, graduation rates and college placement. To remain provisionally accredited, it would need to meet six of the 14 standards. Full accreditation requires meeting nine of the standards.
The president of the St. Louis district’s current school board, Veronica O’Brien, had supported the state takeover.
“I think it’s important for them to bring in some new leadership, some new administration, and someone who can really turn the district around,” she said. She left the meeting Thursday under police protection.