Attracting Students to Saint Louis?
The story of young Edmund Lee, who will be denied the opportunity to continue attending the school of his choice because he is black, has caught our attention. Edmund currently attends a successful Saint Louis Charter School, Gateway Science Academy. Unfortunately, Edmund’s family will be moving to the county. If he were white, he could use the inter-district transfer program and continue attending school at Gateway.
While it is easy to focus on the obvious story about race here, there may be another equally important story that we are missing—some students want to transfer back into Saint Louis. Black students in Saint Louis have regularly used the transfer to attend county schools. According to the Voluntary Inter-District Choice Corporation, which oversees the transfer program, more than 4,700 city students did so in 2013. Few white county students, however—just 121—chose to transfer into the city. Typically, these students choose to go to high-performing magnet schools such as Metro High School.
Edmund’s desire to attend Gateway Science Academy tells us something amazing. His parents would rather send him to a city charter school than enroll him in the Pattonville School District, a respectable district.
This is good news for the city!
We want schools in the city that attract families. That is what we hoped charter schools would do, and that is indeed what Gateway and many fine charter schools are doing.
Now it is time to for policies to catch up. As I’ve written previously on the Show-Me Daily blog, Missouri should allow charter schools to enroll students across district boundaries. This would open up numerous high-quality educational opportunities for students in Saint Louis County. It would also make it more feasible for charter schools to operate in relatively small county school districts, such as Normandy and Riverview Gardens.
Edmund Lee is caught in an unfair situation that should lead us to question the transfer rules that are currently in place. But hidden in the story is a sign of hope—that charter schools will attract more students to the city.