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Tinder for the explosion in Ferguson

"Tinder for the explosion in Ferguson" Continued...

“I thought, you know, she’s a better mom than I am,” Morey recalled. “I didn’t spend that many hours or that much time for my kiddos that day.”

Morey realized her fears came from ignorance, and she changed her attitude toward her children’s new classmates.

The rest of the year in the Francis Howell school district saw no reported clashes between students or parents from the two districts. But the debate about the Normandy students’ education was far from over. The tuition payments the Normandy school district was making for its hundreds of transfer students drained its coffers and pushed it to the brink of bankruptcy. In Missouri’s capital, politicians debated whether it was better to continue supporting school choice or try to keep students—and tax money—in the community to fund the district’s revival.

A series of political maneuvers by the administration of Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, a vocal opponent of school vouchers, effectively eliminated the transfer option for Normandy students. The state Board of Education, which the governor appoints, dissolved the Normandy district and re-established it as a state-run cooperative with no accreditation status. That meant no new transfers out of Normandy. Students who transferred the previous year could transfer again if the receiving school would accept them at a reduced tuition rate. The Francis Howell school board announced June 20, that it would not accept Normandy transfers this year, and many St. Louis-area districts followed suit. Francis Howell Superintendent Pam Sloan said the decision was not about money, but rather about supporting the Normandy district’s efforts to rebuild.

“Children have a right and a need to have quality schools in their neighborhood,” Sloan told the Post-Dispatch

With fewer than two months left before the start of school, families of transfer students had to decide whether to return to Normandy, look for another area school district to accept their children, or try to move to St. Charles County, where the rental costs are out of reach for low-wage earners.

“Now I’m on the opposite end,” Morey said. “I’m so mad they took them away. Why did they do that to those poor families and those poor kids?”

One parent from Normandy had an answer that spoke to the feelings of many North County African-Americans who feel weighed down by circumstances. Lorrine Goodloe’s daughter attended middle school as a transfer student in Francis Howell last year.

“I’ve told her that this is just a political game and you are just a pawn,” Goodloe told the Post-Dispatch.

Those feelings of powerlessness—like the idea that a politician, not parents, can decide to pull children out of a successful school and place them in a failing one—contributed to the anger that exploded in North County after Michael Brown’s death.

“If police tactics were the spark that set off the explosion in Ferguson this week, then poverty and hopelessness were the tinder,” wrote Post-Dispatch columnist David Nicklaus.

Lynde Langdon
Lynde Langdon

Lynde lives in Wichita, Kan., with her husband and two daughters. She holds degrees from the University of Missouri in journalism, Russian, and business administration. She is in a long-term, committed relationship with the Lutheran church. Follow Lynde on Twitter @lmlangdon.

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