Panel suggests disbanding East St. Louis school board

Sunday, September 15, 2002

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. -- A state oversight panel wants to dismantle the East St. Louis school board and replace it with one appointed by the state in an unusual proposal that would also slash local property taxes.

Under the proposal, residents of East St. Louis School District 189 would lose their right to vote for local school board members, with the board replaced by an unpaid panel of local residents appointed by the state Board of Education. To make that easier to swallow, the property tax bills of residents of the district would be slashed by 63 percent.

The panel's proposal, which must be approved by state lawmakers, was made after nearly eight years of studying the troubled school district.

According to Richard Mark, who chairs the panel, the board should be abolished because while the district has made gradual financial improvements, it remains unable to educate students to minimum state standards.

"The problem is the district is academically bankrupt," he said. "Something has to be done."

The proposal calls for the $6.3 million of the district's annual $90 million budget that comes from property taxes to be paid by the state. The state already provides 75 percent of the budget. The federal government picks up the rest.

Mark said the tax cut could help pump money into the community's economy. But the proposal is likely to meet resistance from local politicians who have long wanted to remove outside control from city government. City Hall is also monitored by a state-appointed panel.

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