St. Louis Public Schools Seek Funding for Rams Settlement
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St. Louis Public Schools Seek Funding for Rams Settlement

ST. LOUIS — City officials should use some of the money from the Rams settlement to fund health and recreation centers in St. Louis Public Schools, a move that largely ended a decade ago, the district’s superintendent said Tuesday.

“When I think about healing-focused schools and the ability to provide safety, learning and healing through our community schools, I think about the ability to ensure that schools are places where our children thrive,” SLPS Principal Keisha Scarlett told the Council of Elders during a hearing on options for the city’s $250 million allocation.







St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent Keisha Scarlett

St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent Keisha Scarlett listens as students read their rhymes to the class during a visit from federal officials at Compton Drew Middle School in St. Louis, Sept. 6, 2023.


David Carson, Post-Dispatch


Tuesday’s hearing on child care availability and pedestrian-friendly streets was the latest in a series of hearings on five of the most popular settlement fund proposals. Final decisions are expected in the fall.

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The most votes in the online poll were received by: replacing water mains, calming street traffic and increasing the salaries of city employees, as well as subsidizing childcare and establishing a revitalization fund.

Improving access to child care received more than 8,000 votes, the fourth-best vote, and was the most preferred idea by low-income residents, according to Cristina Garmendia, policy director for City Council Speaker Megan Green.

None of the five ideas under consideration are directly related to SLPS, which offers free preschool to city residents starting at age 3. Green asked district leaders about their options for providing care for infants and toddlers, pointing to early childhood care initiatives that received the most votes.

Toni Cousins, SLPS board chairwoman, said the district is “looking to expand, looking to expand” to children ages 0 to 3, particularly through full-service charter schools.

Charter or full-service schools have been shown to improve academic achievement and attendance because they provide children and families with comprehensive services that may include nutrition, housing, parenting classes and health care at night and on weekends.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 60% of the country’s public schools are community-based, offering additional services such as food assistance in the neighborhood.

The district began operating full-service community schools in 1968 with a combination of SLPS and city funds. As many as 16 schools served as recreation centers, offering tutoring, dental care, and classes for children and adults in music, art, fitness, and more.







Councilwoman Alisha Sonnier

Councilor Alisha Sonnier served as chair of a city council committee that heard testimony on Tuesday, July 9, 2024, about how funds from the NFL Rams settlement were spent.


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City residents received catalogs in the mail listing all the activities. At the program’s peak, about 123,000 residents participated in 930 programs and 330 special events at the centers each year. The program was gradually scaled back over the decades as federal grants were funneled through the city.

The last 10 original public schools closed in 2014 amid budget cuts by former Mayor Francis Slay, though the district continued a version of the program in four schools with a stronger focus on students, staff and their families.

Scarlett on Tuesday proposed expanding the public schools just weeks after councilors unanimously approved a resolution that mistakenly commemorated the end of the program at four SLPS buildings.

The district did not cut funding for the full-service program that provides dining, laundry, clothing and other services at Walbridge, Yeatman-Liddell Middle and Vashon High schools on St. Louis’ north side and Oak Hill Elementary on the city’s south side.

The confusion began when SLPS leaders said earlier this year that four program coordinators were being reassigned to help meet the district’s goal of placing a social worker in every school. The remaining social worker at each full-service school will now run programs with the help of community organizations, including the Little Bit Foundation.

Scarlett said the annual funding needed to rebuild the program and fully staff the charter schools would be $427,885 per school and that the district could provide matching funds.

Scott Ogilvie, manager of the city’s Complete Streets program, also discussed using the Rams settlement as a means to reallocate funds to “larger projects that have a greater impact” on transportation safety, including street narrowing and other traffic-calming measures.

The next meeting of the Council of Elders Committee of the Whole will be held on Sept. 10, said Councilor Alisha Sonnier, chairwoman of the committee.

About 100 St. Louis Public Schools supporters rallied Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023, at the Missouri Capitol for a variety of bills addressing gun violence prevention, school funding and local control. Video by Blythe Bernhard, St. Louis Post-Dispatch.




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