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Circuit court finds St. Louis charter schools can continue to receive desegregation funding

Confluence Academy’s South City Academy
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
The sun sets on the Confluence Academy’s South City Academy on July 5 in Dutchtown.

An opinion affecting funding for city schools came out of Missouri’s 8th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday. It is related to the decades-old school desegregation case, Liddell v. Board of Education.

The court was considering whether sales tax revenue meant for desegregation programs in St. Louis Public Schools should continue to go to charter schools. Plaintiffs had argued that more than $80 million in revenue had been improperly diverted to charters.

The court found charter schools are entitled to that money. This upholds a federal judge’s earlier decision. Because the charters are already receiving the funding, this won’t change anything.

The court also found that charter schools are not required to provide desegregation programs with this funding. St. Louis Public Schools is supposed to use the money for those programs, which can include magnet schools, all-day kindergarten and summer school.

Charter school advocates are happy with the court’s opinion.

“I think the court appropriately saw that charter public school students are public school students in the city of St. Louis, and therefore, they are entitled to the same equitable funding, as their peers who attend St. Louis public schools,” said Douglas Thaman, executive director of the Missouri Charter Public School Association and executive director of the Northside Community School.

Matt Davis, president of the city's Board of Education, wasn’t surprised by the ruling. He said this case reflects a broken education funding system.

“Ultimately, the desegregation case is about disparate treatment for our students,” Davis said. “And we know that there are still a lot of disparities in the city of St. Louis that manifest themselves also in our education system. After 50 years, we still have a lot of work to do.”

For Davis and his partners at St. Louis Public Schools, that work is taking the form of efforts to create a Citywide Plan for Education. A group of stakeholders from the traditional public school district but also charter schools and community organizations has been meeting for almost a year to put together recommendations. More equitable funding is one aspect they are considering.

The lawyer for the plaintiffs, William Douthit, said in a statement, “the appellants are evaluating their options in light of this ruling and its negative impact on the education of public school children that attend the St. Louis Public School District.”

Kate Grumke covers higher education and the many school districts in the region for St. Louis Public Radio.

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