Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

E. St. Louis Schools Get State Warning

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

E. St. Louis Schools Get State Warning

Article excerpt

Illinois Superintendent of Education Joseph Spagnolo says the state will take over East St. Louis School District finances unless the district presents a detailed plan for improvement by Tuesday.

"The total inability of the local school board in East St. Louis to deal with its problems requires the state board to take decisive action," Spagnolo said.

"My staff and news media continue to raise serious concerns about the educational programs available in the district," he said. "Programs such as Chapter 1, vocational education and special education have not been provided as required, and the staff and resources for these programs have been utilized for other purposes."

"Needless to say, children continue to be denied an appropriate education while the financial situation deteriorates," he said.

Spagnolo notified Superintendent Geraldine Jenkins of his intentions in a letter Wednesday. He urged the district to take advantage of a state law that allows a district to obtain emergency financial aid if it also agrees to be placed under the control of a state-appointed financial oversight panel.

He warned that if the district did not have an appropriate financial plan by Tuesday, he would ask the state Board of Education to take steps to appoint an oversight board.

In addition to pumping more money into the district, a state takeover would give the supervisory board authority to hire more teachers and set new financial policy.

The district would still be run by the local school board, but financial decisions would be subject to the authority of the oversight panel, said Lee Milner, manager of public affairs for the state board of education.

"We need to do something," Spagnolo said at a meeting of educators in the Metro East Wedneday night. He called the situation in the District 189 schools "terrible."

Spagnolo told Jenkins in the letter Wednesday that he recognized the district had a real financial crisis. Others, including the Republican chairman of the Senate Education Committee, have said the district doesn't need more money but should redirect its priorities.

But Spagnolo said: "As the district has few, if any, remaining budget options, additional funding will be required to address the current problems. …

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