Education
1:51 pm
Thu June 21, 2012

Illinois Board of Education takes over East St. Louis schools

For the first time in its history, the Illinois State Board of Education has taken over a public school district.

The board voted unanimously today to dissolve the seven-member elected board of the East St. Louis Public Schools and replace it with an appointed five-member oversight panel to run the school district.

The district already was under state financial oversight, and the board previously had entered an agreement giving a state consultant the final say over most decisions.

But state Supt. Christopher Koch says those steps weren’t enough.

“We do have, just to remind folks at the high school … academic performance is the reason for this action," Koch said.  "Eleven percent of students meeting or exceeding standards at the high school, only 60 percent in the entire district.”

The state board also approved a $30 million emergency loan to help East St. Louis Public Schools meet their expenses. The board’s chairman said he would have been reluctant to approve the loan without the state takeover.

State board member and long-time educator Vinni Hall of Chicago said she’d heard the concerns of East St. Louis residents and understands why the district is struggling.

“None of anything that anybody said is not going on deaf ears," Hall said, "but golly. Come on. We’ve got to do something. Either we step up to the plate or we fail these children badly.”