St. Louis schools detail appeal over accreditation loss

Thursday, May 31, 2007

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis School District released documents Wednesday as it appeals a planned state takeover.

The state Board of Education voted in March to remove the district's accreditation, and an appointed board is to run the district starting in mid-June.

St. Louis schools had until Tuesday to appeal to the state education commissioner.

Superintendent Diana Bourisaw argues the state wrongly determined the district failed to meet enough standards to maintain provisional accreditation.

Before the state board took action, 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 14 performance standards set by the state.

To remain provisionally accredited, as the district had been, St. Louis schools needed to meet six of the 14 standards; full accreditation requires meeting nine standards. The school district's operating budget has shown a negative balance for each of the past four years.

Bourisaw argued in her appeal this week that the district has met six standards, including college placement.

The school district said state officials unfairly required more data to prove it had met some requirements and did not give enough time for the district to gather the information before voting to strip its accreditation.

"There was no valid reason to deny the board the time necessary to collect the requested information," the district argued in its appeal.

The school system also claims the state board's actions were unconstitutional. Among other things, the district says the board is treating St. Louis schools differently than it has several other districts with comparable performance. The appeal said several districts, including others in the St. Louis area, came up short of the six performance standards in their latest annual review and yet have not lost their accreditation.

The district also notes that the nearby Wellston School District lost accreditation and had two years to improve before being taken over by the state. Then, after a year of state management, the state education board created a new category of "interim" accreditation for Wellston, though the state-appointed board remained in place.

State officials said they feared Wellston would suffer too much financially if students were allowed to continue leaving for other districts, with Wellston footing the bill.

St. Louis said it deserved that same opportunity to turn around for two years, or at least some other step short of a full state takeover.

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