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State Education Department Comes Under Fire Over Unaccredited Schools

Xavier Crayton-Bradford and Christina Turner, KMOX State Capitol Bureau
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Photo: Thinkstock

Photo: Thinkstock

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (MDN) - Missouri’s Education Department came under criticism Tuesday over its handling of the state’s unaccredited schools.

State Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro pitched several different options to a joint education committee tasked with finding solutions for the state’s failing schools.

Nicastro said one option for the unaccredited districts would be letting them go bankrupt and assigning students to other districts. Another, she said, would be revoking the new transfer process for the students entirely.

DESE hired the outside consulting firm CEE Trust August to dig for solutions to help the unaccredited schools recover.

Rep. Genise Montecillo, D-St. Louis County, told Nicastro she didn’t think the department had to look outside the state to point out the problems.

“Why are we looking to an outside company when we have continually ignored our teachers and we’ve ignored our superintendents?” Montecillo said. “[They] have told us what they need, and we don’t take what they say is important into account.”

Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis City, said by not addressing the problems of low socioeconomic status that many of the students face in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas, they would only be furthering a broader cycle of failure.

“If we aren’t educating these kids, we are incarcerating them,” said Nasheed.

Riverview Gardens District Superintendent Scott Spurgeon asked the board to give his district more time, but Sen. Scott Rupp, R-St. Charles County, asked Spurgeon why he would believe Riverview Gardens could turn itself around.

“I don’t need your money,” Spurgeon said. “You don’t want to give me money, don’t give me money, that’s fine. We’re still going to get it done. So just watch my action. Because I know my community is sick and tired of us talking about it too, so all I say is, watch how we lead.”

Spurgeon is one of several superintendents who spoke at a more than five hour hearing on long-term solutions for students living in unaccredited districts.

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