St. Louis Public Schools file $42 million suit against charter schools

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ST. LOUIS (KPLR) - A federal court battle over whether St. Louis Public Schools can recover millions in local sales tax revenues currently being paid to city charter schools could put the future of charter schools in jeopardy.

Details on this story are appearing in our partner the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

According to the paper, St. Louis Public Schools officials claim the district is owed more than $42 million in local sales tax revenues that have been going to charter schools over the past decade. St. Louis Public Schools and others, including the NAACP, have filed a federal petition to try and get those funds back.

The challenge filed against the Missouri Board of Education focuses on the millions of dollars that charter schools receive each year from a sales tax that voters approved in 1999. The tax funds court ordered desegregation programs in the St. Louis Public School District. The Post reports that when charter schools first began appearing in St. Louis in 2000, proceeds from the desegregation tax weren’t used to fund them. But ever since 2006, the state has been sending revenue from the tax to charter schools.

The plaintiffs argue that directing revenue from the tax away from city schools violates the desegregation settlement agreement.

The suit is asking the state to not only return the $42 million that has gone to charter schools since 2006 but also an additional $8.8 million expected to go to charter schools for the current school year. Charter school leaders say charter schools are entitled to the money because they take part in the desegregation program.

Those leaders say if charter schools had to repay the tax revenue it would likely bankrupt many if not all of the schools.

The Post says about a third of public school students in St. Louis now attend charter schools.

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