Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Stepping Up; Our View; State Takeover of East St. Louis Schools Is Long Overdue; EDITORIAL

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Stepping Up; Our View; State Takeover of East St. Louis Schools Is Long Overdue; EDITORIAL

Article excerpt

The state of Illinois is poised to make a last-ditch effort to save the East St. Louis School District and restore educational and academic standards for its 7,100 students. Current school board members should give up the fight and let the teaching begin.

Leading the turnaround effort of a district that for decades has been mired in mismanagement, ineptitude and scandal is an unlikely savior: Illinois Superintendent of Education Christopher Koch.

East St. Louis turns out big margins for Democratic candidates, and Mr. Koch serves at the behest of Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn. And no matter how he sugarcoats it, there is no way that political power brokers in East St. Louis are going to like what Mr. Koch is planning to serve them.

Mr. Koch - and his boss, Mr. Quinn - are putting children ahead of politicians. That might seem like an easy call, but, for decades, it hasn't been the case in Illinois District 189. The entire St. Louis region should support his efforts.

On Wednesday, Mr. Koch will ask the State Board of Education for permission to oust the existing seven-member school board; the board will make its decision the following day.

It would be the first time the state has imposed the death penalty on a school board. The board of the North Chicago district is also on death row; there, a former board president is serving time in prison for a multi-state scheme involving kickbacks to school officials and employees.

In East St. Louis, former federal prosecutor Courtney Cox, in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney's office, East St. Louis School District administrators and state education authorities, is investigating allegations of misuse of district funds.

Mr. Koch's plan will take money, jobs and stature from many people in the district, which is the city's largest employer. But in a school district that historically has been rife with cronyism, nepotism and corruption, that's a necessary loss for kids - remember them? …

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