Hostile Takeover: The State of Missouri, the St. Louis School District, and the Struggle for Quality Education in the Inner-City: Board of Education of the City of St. Louis V. Missouri State Board of Education

By Smith, Justin D. | Missouri Law Review, Fall 2009 | Go to article overview

Hostile Takeover: The State of Missouri, the St. Louis School District, and the Struggle for Quality Education in the Inner-City: Board of Education of the City of St. Louis V. Missouri State Board of Education


Smith, Justin D., Missouri Law Review


I. INTRODUCTION

Missouri has been home to many of the landmark moments in the struggle for racial equality. (2) The Missouri Compromise saved the Union; almost four decades later, the determination that Missouri slave Dred Scott was mere property split the Union. (3) During the Civil War that followed, more battles and skirmishes took place in Missouri than in any other state outside of Virginia and Tennessee. (4) After the Civil War Amendments abolished slavery and guaranteed every person equal protection of the law, (5) the United States Supreme Court allowed a Jefferson City, Missouri, inn to refuse service to blacks. (6) The Court later relied upon this decision when creating the "separate but equal" doctrine in Plessy v. Ferguson. (7) This Plessy doctrine began to unravel when aspiring law student Lloyd Gaines won his desegregation lawsuit against the University of Missouri School of Law in 1938.8 Subsequent decisions in cases originating in St. Louis struck down the enforceability of racial covenants and upheld the congressional ban on housing discrimination. (9) Because the era of court-ordered desegregation arguably began in Missouri with Lloyd Gaines, it is somewhat fitting that the era also concluded in Missouri when the Supreme Court stopped the Kansas City school desegregation program.

Against this backdrop came desegregation litigation in St. Louis, (11) which resulted in the first voluntary desegregation settlement in the country. This 1983 agreement desegregated the public schools in St. Louis and the surrounding suburbs during the following sixteen years. (12) Desegregation ended in 1999, (13) at last concluding the saga in St. Louis education that had continued for almost three decades.

Or at least most thought the saga had concluded. Because student test scores in St. Louis consistently failed to meet state standards, in 2001 the state of Missouri unaccredited the St. Louis school district and transferred control from the St. Louis school board to a "Transitional School District." (14) In Board of Education of the City of St. Louis v. Missouri State Board of Education, the Supreme Court of Missouri upheld the constitutionality of the state's actions. (15) This Note will examine the decision, as well as the history of education in St. Louis and the results of takeovers by Missouri and other states.

II. FACTS AND HOLDING

Beginning in the early 1980s, the St. Louis school district operated under a court-supervised desegregation plan. (16) Local control finally was restored in 1999. (17) During the subsequent eight years that the St. Louis school board governed, academic performance of the district remained at or below minimally accepted levels, as it had since 1994. (18) The performance was so bad, in fact, that the president of the Missouri Board of Education compared it to receiving a report card with three D's and six F's. (19) In the 2006-2007 evaluation of the St. Louis school district by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), the district failed to meet the minimum standards in four of the six categories on the state standardized test, as well as the minimum standards for attendance, graduation rates, and performance on the ACT. (20) Adding to the academic difficulties were financial problems. Under the direction of the school board, St. Louis schools spent $93 million more than they took in over a five-year period, turning a $63 million surplus into a $30 million deficit. (21)

In July 2006, the fifth superintendent of the St. Louis school district in three years resigned. (22) Following this resignation and the overall poor performance of the St. Louis schools, the Missouri commissioner of education appointed an advisory committee to study the district. (23) Six months later the committee issued its final report, finding that the St. Louis school district needed state help and recommending that the "Transitional School District" (TSD) be re-established should the state unaccredit the district. …

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