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#DropTheSuit Update – Judge says charter school parents can't join suit, July 21, 2016

Today’s update on the legal actions between Saint Louis Public Schools, the state and public charter schools isn’t what we wanted to hear, but it’s important that we give you the information – whether it’s good, bad or indifferent.

The upside is that Confluence Charter Schools’ is getting ready for another school year because we have work to do on behalf of our students and families. The first day of school is Wednesday, August 17. It’s a full day for all students at each of our schools – Aspire Academy, Confluence Academy-Old North, Confluence Academy-South City, Confluence Preparatory Academy, Elite Academy at CPA and Grand Center Arts Academy.

Yesterday, July 20, 2016, a federal court judge ruled that charter school parents cannot join the legal battle between SLPS and the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in a dispute over money paid to public charter schools since 2006. SLPS is asking the state for nearly $50 million paid to public charter schools from desegregation tax revenue over the last 10 years, and SLPS wants the state to discontinue payments to public charter schools in the future. On July 13, 2016, a hearing was held in federal court in St. Louis to give a voice to charter school parents through the Missouri Charter Public School Association.

On July 21, MCPSA sent an email to its member schools with a response to the judge’s decision:

“Although we are disappointed that charter school parents will not be allowed to have their voices heard in a case that could negatively impact the education of their children, this is by no means an end. We maintain that the sales tax dollars in question should be used as the ballot language intended and equitably distributed to ALL public schools in the City of St. Louis and the District's legal action must be withdrawn or denied.

“A copy of Judge Autrey's opinion is attached. In short, Judge Autrey appears to deny the Motion for the following reasons:

  • Did not find that charter school parents have "suffered an injury in fact", that is "traceable to the challenged conduct of the defendant" and is likely to be 'set right' by a "favorable decision." 
  • Does not find that charter school parents are parties to the case but instead, "strangers to a consent decree" without standing.
  • Does not find that, "the continued existence of the charter schools fulfills the stated desegregation remediation purpose of the Desegregation Settlement Act."
  • Finds that charter school parents "argue general nebulous injuries that might occur if the Motion to Enforce the Settlement is sustained."

“One point of question is how Judge Autrey could base his decision on the citation of Jenkins v. School District of Kansas City as supporting precedent when that case dealt with a settlement agreement formed from a court order prior to the existence of charter schools. In this current case charter schools were borne of the same legislation as the settlement agreement thus in existence.

“Moving forward, legal counsel is considering the recommended best course of action and discussions will be held with charter school leaders, board chairs and individual school legal counsel. This is by no means an end but rather a need to stay the course and move forward. As previously stated, we maintain that the sales tax dollars in question should be used as the ballot language intended and equitably distributed to ALL public schools in the City of St. Louis. The District's legal action must be withdrawn or denied. Charter public school students, parents, teachers and schools are at risk.”

Two local media outlets published articles about the ruling from July 20, 2016 -

St. Louis Post-Dispatch - http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/education/judge-says-charter-school-parents-can-t-join-legal-battle/article_631f2c55-5e9c-59b7-a17a-c072a5256ded.html

 

St. Louis Public Radio - http://news.stlpublicradio.org/post/judge-rejects-efforts-charter-school-parents-join-education-funding-suit

 

Parents, you are encouraged to continue to push SLPS and the Special Administrative Board to drop the suit and work toward equal funding for all public school students. For details on how you can help, look at the MCPSA website

We’ll continue with these updates as we can. Please stay focused and be positive. We’ll see you and your children on August 17!