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Poll: Should Imagine’s Charter Schools in St. Louis Close?

September 25, 2011 Education, Featured, Sunday Poll 16 Comments
ABOVE: The Imagine school at Chouteau & Spring

Controversy about poor performing schools was recently focused on charter schools, specifically six operated by Imagine Schools, Inc:

Mayor Francis Slay called for the closure of Imagine charter schools in St. Louis on Thursday, for the first time singling out the poorest-performing charters in the city.


Charter schools are public schools that operate independently of traditional school systems. In Missouri, they’re allowed only in St. Louis and Kansas City as alternatives to struggling school districts.

The Virginia-based Imagine Schools Inc., the largest charter school operator in the country, has six school in St. Louis. They ranked at the bottom among charter schools and most St. Louis Public Schools on the 2011 Missouri Assessment Program. (STLtoday)

Seems unusual to have a mayor calling for school closures. The Missouri Charter Public School Association is also calling for their closure:

MCPSA believes the Imagine Schools’ performance trends reflect most poorly on the management company, Imagine Schools Inc. and is not a condemnation of the teachers and staff within the schools. Often a significant issue leading to such poor academic performance is a lack of resources and supports available to the teachers and staff by their employer. Another issue, often, is charter public school governing boards not being able to execute the oversight authority they are statutorily entitled as the management company has contractually assumed that authority. (Beacon)

So what do you think? The poll is in the right sidebar.

– Steve Patterson


Poll: Missouri Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday a Good Idea?

Missouri’s Back-t0-School Sales Tax Holiday is August 5-7:

During this time, Missourians won’t have to pay the state’s 4.225 percent sales tax on certain purchases made in the state. Alana Barragán-Scott, director of the Missouri Department of Revenue, said the tax break will help those making big purchases the most. (Source)

Our state government even produced a lame video to promote the event:


From the Missouri Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday page:

Certain back-to-school purchases, such as clothing, school supplies, computers, and other items as defined by the statute, are exempt from sales tax for this time period only.

The sales tax holiday applies to state and local sales taxes when a local jurisdiction chooses to participate in the holiday. However, local jurisdictions can choose to not participate in the holiday if they enact an ordinance to not participate and notify the department 45 days prior to the sales tax holiday. If the jurisdiction had previously enacted an ordinance to not participate in the holiday and later decided to participate, it must enact a new ordinance to participate and notify the department 45 days prior to the sales tax holiday.

If one or all of your local taxing jurisdictions are not participating in the sales tax holiday, the state’s portion of the tax rate (4.225%) will remain exempt for the sale of qualifying sales tax holiday items.

The sales tax exemption is limited to:

  • Clothing – any article having a taxable value of $100 or less
  • School supplies – not to exceed $50 per purchase
  • Computer software – taxable value of $350 or less
  • Personal computers – not to exceed $3,500
  • Computer peripheral devices – not to exceed $3,500

Thankfully the site details how these items are defined:

Section 144.049, RSMo, defines items exempt during the sales tax holiday as:

“Clothing” – any article of wearing apparel, including footwear, intended to be worn on or about the human body. The term shall include but not be limited to cloth and other material used to make school uniforms or other school clothing. Items normally sold in pairs shall not be separated to qualify for the exemption. The term shall not include watches, watchbands, jewelry, handbags, handkerchiefs, umbrellas, scarves, ties, headbands, or belt buckles.

“School supplies” – any item normally used by students in a standard classroom for educational purposes, including but not limited to, textbooks, notebooks, paper, writing instruments, crayons, art supplies, rulers, book bags, backpacks, handheld calculators, chalk, maps, and globes. The term shall not include watches, radios, CD players, headphones, sporting equipment, portable or desktop telephones, copiers or other office equipment, furniture, or fixtures. School supplies shall also include computer software having a taxable value of three hundred fifty dollars or less.

“Personal computers” – a laptop, desktop, or tower computer system which consists of a central processing unit, random access memory, a storage drive, a display monitor, and a keyboard and devices designed for use in conjunction with a personal computer, such as a disk drive, memory module, compact disk drive, daughterboard, digitalizer, microphone, modem, motherboard, mouse, multimedia speaker, printer, scanner, single-user hardware, single-user operating system, soundcard, or video card.

The poll question this week seeks to find out what readers think of this annual event. The poll is located in the upper right corner of the blog.

– Steve Patterson



Readers: St. Louis Public Schools Must Improve To Stop Population Loss

March 23, 2011 Education 46 Comments

In the poll last week readers agreed that our K-12 schools must improve to stop population loss:

Q: It has been said by many the St. Louis Public Schools must be improved to stop population loss. Agree? If so, how?

  1. Agree, no clue how to improve them 61 [36.53%]
  2. Agree, need more students from higher economic backgrounds 53 [31.74%]
  3. Other answer… 28 [16.77%]
  4. Agree, the schools just need more money 11 [6.59%]
  5. Disagree, children are becoming less and less important in future demographic trends 7 [4.19%]
  6. Agree, cut out competition from charter schools 6 [3.59%]
  7. Unsure/no opinion 1 [0.6%]

The top answer, not surprisingly, was “no clue how to improve them” with students from higher economic  backgrounds a close second.

ABOVE: Charter school closed after sponsor
ABOVE: This school closed after the sponsor revoked the charter in April 2010

Charter schools are often seen as the solution by some and the problem by others.

The following were the numerous “other” answers submitted:

  1. The Schools need more than just money and diversity to improve. What though?
  2. Vouchers for all schools
  3. Agree, schools need more funding/teacher evaluations/more comprehensive approach
  4. Revitalize neighborhood schools
  5. Agree, but needs more than just money.
  6. agree, schools need more money and real involved committment from adults.
  7. eliminate city corruption
  8. Good students must have the ability to learn separated from misbehaving students
  9. Charter Schools won’t fix poverty present in our neighborhoods
  10. Agree provide more competition from more charter schools
  11. more responsible parents willing to work on improving the SLPS
  12. Agree but there is no 25 words or less solution
  13. its a combination of things. not just bad kids with bad homes
  14. Agree, better smaller administration
  15. Make it a point of community pride; require parent service hours and outreach.
  16. Go to a voucher program – problem solved, especially for low income families.
  17. A total revemp of the system, including the important step of parent involvement
  18. More charters less control from the divided leviathan.
  19. No, this is still a white flight issue. Keeping our kids away from “them”
  20. Agree, but only good parental involvement
  21. Of course, this is a no brainer
  22. Agree, Gens Y and Z may not all have kids now, but we will soon.
  23. These options are laughable.
  24. Families aren’t moving to the city with high crime rates no matter the scho
  25. Decertify the NEA
  26. Replace all public schools with charters.
  27. Agree, city families need access to great schools chartered, district, private
  28. More charter schools-city schools irretrievably broken

I highlighted #9 because I really liked the comment, no school public or private is going to fix poverty.  Face it, a school with low income students of any race will not be the best learning environment.  On Sunday 60 Minutes did a story on a charter school in a poor neighborhood in NYC that is focusing on getting the very best teachers to improve the student’s test score:

(CBS News) With state after state confronting massive budget problems, several governors have been looking to extract whatever they can from public employees like teachers, going after benefits packages and guaranteed job security that unions have won for them. But would teachers be willing to give up those protections for a chance to earn a lot more money?

Test scores overall are still low but some individual students have jumped two grade levels in reading in a single year, very important to their future.

– Steve Patterson


Poll: Must St. Louis Public Schools Improve To Stop Population Loss?

ABOVE: Gateway Middle School
ABOVE: St. Louis' Gateway Middle School on north Jefferson

For years it has been suggested that underperforming St. Louis Public Schools must be turned around to stop the loss of population. Do you agree? If so, how?

The counter argument is  fewer and fewer households have kids.  St. Louis should focus on attracting aging Baby Boomers & Busters (Gen X) whose kids are grown and Generation Z who don’t yet have kids. This is the subject of the poll this week (see upper right of blog).

– Steve Patterson


Historic Urban School to be Razed for Parking & Playground

ABOVE: The old Hodgen is center left and the new Hodgen is on the right
ABOVE: The old Hodgen is center left and the new Hodgen is on the right. Via Google Maps, click to view

The old Hodgen Elementary School at California & Henrietta is to be razed, the exact date is unknown.  Yesterday I had to admit to two friends, when they asked my opinion,  I was behind on my reading.

ABOVE: Along California Ave the old Hodgen relates to the street whereas the new Hodgen does not
ABOVE: Along California Ave the old Hodgen relates to the street whereas the new Hodgen does not. Source: Google

The Post-Dispatch had the story on January 27th but the demo was one sentence: “The old Hodgen School will be demolished to make way for more playground and parking at the newer Hodgen Elementary School on California Avenue.” Michael Allen posted on the school later that day.

I keep hoping we are beyond razing our great urban fabric for parking.  The new school is tolerable only because of the existence of the old school.

Further reading & great photos:

– Steve Patterson