Obama may love charter schools, Georgia may be on the fence, but St. Louis school leaders see charter schools as a vice. While researching our upcoming story about the International Community School and charter school facilities, I learned that last year, as the leaders of St. Louis public schools prepared to sell a bunch of empty school buildings, the district barred certain unwanted buyers: "liquor stores, landfills, distilleries, as well as shops that sell "so-called sexual toys,' " writes St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter David Hunn. "They also blackballed charter schools."This despite the city's 17 public charter schools and 9,500 charter students - and eight new charters expected to open by fall 2010 - writes Bill Schulz of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. "Porn shops and liquor stores and charter schools, oh my!" he quipped.Huhn reports: " said Susan Uchitelle, board member at Confluence Academy, a charter school with three campuses and 2,700 students in St. Louis. We finally just gave up.... It was made very clear they weren't going to sell to us. They'd show them to us. They'd let us walk through them. But then they'd take them off the market.' "
Now, as the school board debates closing 29 more schools, politicians, lobby groups, and residents of the neighborhoods surrounding the buildings are up in arms at the thought that charter schools can't move in to replace the once-great schools that anchored whole neighborhoods.
The Missouri Charter Public Schools Association, State Representative T.D. El-Amin, and many others are now working to reverse the ban. The Children's Education Alliance of Missouri's YouTube video makes their case. One resident they interview puts it succinctly: "That's crazy."