NAACP Weighs In On St. Louis Charter Closures

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) --- The NAACP has sent a letter to a top  Missouri education official questioning why the more than 3,500  students attending a network of soon-to-close St. Louis charter  schools haven't been given the option of transferring to accredited  school districts, as allowed under state law.
Adolphus Pruitt, the president of the National Association for
the Advancement of Colored People's St. Louis branch, said in an
interview that litigation was likely. He said several attorneys
were being interviewed and the plaintiffs would be displaced
charter school students.
At issue is the state Board of Education's decision Tuesday to
close six academically and fiscally troubled charter school
campuses run by Virginia-based Imagine Schools Inc. The closures
are supposed to take effect after this school year ends, and
education officials are working to find the students slots in St.
Louis Public Schools and other charter schools in the city.
But the NAACP said the students also should be able to take
advantage of a state law requiring unaccredited districts _ like
the one in St. Louis _ to pay tuition and transportation costs to
send students living within their boundaries to accredited schools
in the same or an adjoining county.  Pruitt said charter students aren't being told that transferring  to accredited schools is an option, and he believes the state has
that responsibility after saying it would find new schools for the
displaced students to attend.  Several lawsuits have been filed already over the transfer law.
Suburban schools have refused to accept students from three
unaccredited school systems in Kansas City and St. Louis while the
litigation continues and the Legislature debates changes to the
law.  The state Supreme Court said in 2010 that students living in
unaccredited districts are owed free transfers and accredited
schools must take them. But then it sent the lawsuit involved in
that decision back to a St. Louis County court, where a trial was
held in March to discuss several issues, including a claim by
accredited schools that it's impossible to comply. The St. Louis
judge hasn't ruled yet.  ``Under the Missouri Supreme Court's ruling in Turner v.
Clayton, these children have the option to go to St. Louis County
schools,'' Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro said in an emailed
statement. ``If these schools begin accepting these students, our
charter transition office will facilitate that transfer.''
But Pruitt said Nicastro should use the power of her office to  ``induce'' the accredited school systems to take city students.``If she doesn't stand up and fight for those children, we are  going to fight her,'' Pruitt said. ``That is a fact.''  Pruitt also said the state should give the St. Louis district  partial accreditation if the suburban districts won't have to take
transfer students.
He said that would keep students from having the  blotch of graduating from an unaccredited school system.  ``I'm not saying that's the option we want them to take; I'm
just saying that's an option,'' Pruitt said.  Pruitt also noted that the NAACP was part of an earlier  desegregation case against St. Louis Public Schools and said the
refusal to permit transfers could place the district in violation
of a settlement in that case.  ``If these were 3,800 white students I seriously question
whether we would be having this discussion about whether the county
schools would be willing to accept them and whether their options
would be limited to an unaccredited school district,'' he said.``I
seriously question that.''
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