Historical Background        Enrollment History

In response to a 1972 lawsuit, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in 1980 that the St. Louis Public School Board of Education and the State of Missouri were responsible for maintaining a segregated school system.  In 1981, the Appeals Court directed that a voluntary interdistrict plan be worked out between the city and the county schools. A pilot program with six school districts began.

In 1983, a Settlement Agreement was reached with all school districts in the metropolitan area that included multiple components, including the transfer of black city students into primarily white suburban districts and white suburban students into magnet schools in the city.  Transportation and tuition costs were fully paid by the State of Missouri.  The preliminary goal for suburban districts was to reach Plan Ratio (a 15 percent increase of all African-American students in the district including resident students.)  The ultimate goal was for districts to achieve the Plan Goal which was a 25 percent black student population.

In 1999, the case was removed from federal supervision when a new Settlement Agreement was reached which allowed for new students to be admitted to the voluntary transfer program and the St. Louis Magnet Schools through the 2008-2009 school year.  St. Louis City voters approved a 2/3-cent sales tax increase to partially compensate for state desegregation funds that were no longer forthcoming from the State under the new Settlement.  In a programmatic change, four attendance zones were established in the city, each linked with specific suburban school districts.  Transportation is only provided for students who comply with this attendance area structure.  Students applying to attend schools outside of their residential attendance area must provide their own transportation.

Beginning with the 1999 Settlement Agreement, county districts agreed to enrollment goals that were based on the 1998-1999 transfer student enrollment.  In years one through three, districts agreed collectively to maintain at least 85 percent of the 1998-1999 enrollment.  For years four through six, the target percentage was at least 70 percent.  For years seven through ten (beginning with the 2005-2006 school year), no minimum enrollment is required.  Each of these enrollment goals have been met by county districts.

If full pupil cost reimbursement fails, a county district may give a one-year notice to opt out of the program no later than August 20 and return transfer students to the sending district or students may transfer to another participating district at the end of that school year if space is available elsewhere within the student’s attendance area.

Organizational Structure

The Voluntary Interdistrict Coordinating Council, which oversaw implementation of the 1983 Settlement Agreement, became a non-profit corporation in 1999, and was renamed the Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation (VICC).

Each of the 16 participating districts, including the Special School District, has a vote in VICC business in proportion to the number of voluntary transfer students they serve. (Prior to 1999, each participating district had one vote.) Only 2 of these 16 districts have a voting share greater than 10 percent.  Two of these districts no longer accept new transfers, mainly because of a change in their residential population’s racial composition, although they continue to serve students enrolled prior to the 1999 Settlement Agreement.

Participating Districts/Students

Districts continuing to accept new transfer students include Affton, Bayless, Brentwood, Clayton, Hancock Place, Kirkwood, Mehlville, Parkway, Rockwood, Valley Park, Webster Groves and St. Louis Public Schools.  Transfer students remain enrolled in the Lindbergh and Pattonville school districts, and students continue to be served by the St. Louis County Special School District.

As of September 2013, 4,770 St. Louis students were attending county schools, and 121 county students were attending St. Louis City magnet schools.  (At the height of its enrollment, the program served about 14,600 transfer students total.)

For the 2013-2014 school year, the program has accepted 399 new city-to-county transfer students and 86 county-to-city transfers.  A total of 3,821 new applications were received -- 3,674 for city-to-county transfers and 147 for county-to-city transfers.

Funding

Virtually all of VICC’s funding to support the transfer program is received through the State of Missouri’s normal public school aid sources.  These state aid payments simply follow the students to the program.  No special or additional revenues are received.  VICC then uses these funds to provide transportation service and to pay tuition amounts to participating school districts.

In 1999, St. Louis City voters approved a 2/3 cent sales tax increase to help fund city schools (and to replace some of the court-ordered state contributions to the St. Louis Public Schools under the original 1983 Settlement Agreement.) 

The 1999 Settlement Agreement also authorized two $25 million payments to VICC to cover the transportation costs of transitioning to a system in which city students would only have transportation provided if they attended county schools that are paired with their residential attendance area. 

Through 2003-2004, county districts received their respective per pupil education cost in full from VICC for each transfer student.  Starting in 2004-2005, annual tuition payments to suburban districts were capped based on overall available funding each year -- which has generally been about $7,000 or less per student and recently increased to $7,200 per student for 2013-2014.

Programming

In addition to handling recruitment, placement and transportation for the interdistrict transfer program, VICC has five counselors on staff to assist families and/or districts if they encounter difficulties as a result of their transfer.

    Districts can request the following workshops offered by VICC counselors:

  1. Understanding Your African-American Transfer Student

  2. Addressing the Achievement Gap for Parents

  3. Programs for students conducted at the school level

·         Enriching Race Relations through Education (6 - 8 week program for transfer students and resident students)

·         Girls Within Reach (leadership program for transfer and resident minority female students)

·         Survival Kit for Young Men (leadership program for transfer and resident African-American Male students)

·         Addressing the Achievement Gap

VICC counselors developed the “I Choose Success” curriculum for 6th and 9th grade students which is generally offered once a week over 15 weeks.  In the past, VICC trained and paid teachers a stipend to facilitate this curriculum.  Stipends are no longer offered.  Once a district completes the VICC training, the program is theirs to use as they see fit.  Some districts are now offering it to all students at the entry grades, rather than just transfer students.

Under the original 1983 Settlement Agreement, VICC’s predecessor organization and the St. Louis Public Schools had funding to support a variety of supplemental opportunities to bring urban and suburban students and classrooms together, for student leadership programs and for staff development opportunities for counselors and administrators.  After 1999, most of these were no longer funded.  A few of these programs continue with private funding.

New Directions

The 1999 Settlement Agreement included language specifying that the program could be extended and continue to accept new students beyond 2008-2009.  A five-year extension pursuant to this provision was approved by the VICC Board in June, 2007 and a second five-year extension was approved October, 2012.  As a result, new students will continue to be enrolled by districts through the 2018-2019 school year.

To Learn More About the St. Louis Student Transfer Program

VICC website:  http://www.choicecorp.org

William H. Freivogel: “St. Louis: Desegregation and School Choice in the Land of Dred Scott,” Century Foundation Press, 9/18/2002      http://www.tcf.org/Publications/Education/freigovel.pdf

Gerald W. Heaney and Susan Uchitelle.  Unending Struggle: The Long Road to an Equal Education in St Louis.  St. Louis, MO:  Reedy Press (Distributed by University of Nebraska Press), 2004.

Amy Stuart Wells and Robert L. Crain.  Stepping Over the Color Line:  African-American Students in White Suburban Schools.  Yale University Press, 1997.

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