Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation
In accordance with previous decisions by VICC's Board of Directors, the 2023-2024 school year was the last year for new students to enroll in a county school. All grade levels have been filled. No more applications are being accepted. Therefore, there will be no enrollment of new students in 2024-2025 or beyond. All students currently enrolled in the program will be able to continue in their participating county district or magnet school through high school graduation. As a result, there could still be students in the program through 2035-2036.
Race-based school desegregation programs are not intended to continue indefinitely and this one was originally designed to end at some time. This final phase of the program assures compliance with legal requirements and allows it to end gradually, as originally designed.
VICC oversees the implementation of the metropolitan area desegregation program, with responsibilities for facilitating transfers of city students to suburban school districts and suburban students to city magnet schools.
State of Integration in St. Louis
The St. Louis student transfer program was established to increase racial integration in metropolitan area public schools under a settlement agreement reached in the St. Louis desegregation case and approved by the federal court in 1983. This settlement agreement allowed African-American students residing in the city of St. Louis to attend participating school districts in St. Louis County provided certain eligibility requirements regarding residency and behavior records are met. The program also provided for non-African-American students who live in participating suburban school districts to transfer into a St. Louis magnet school in the city.
In 1999, a revised settlement agreement was reached amongst the various parties which transformed the federally supervised program into a voluntary program under the jurisdiction of the Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation (VICC). Under this agreement, suburban school districts would continue accepting new transfer students and maintain certain targeted enrollment levels for at least a 10 year period ending in 2008/2009. Since that time the program has been extended three times. All currently enrolled students will be able to continue through graduation. We were allowed to enroll new students through the 2023/2024 school year (under the current provisions of the Settlement Agreement as amended.) We believe this program is beneficial to both students from the City as well as in the County and our focus is serving children and their families as long as we can within the legal constraints that we must abide by.
Since the inception of the program over 70,000 students have participated and many of the students currently enrolled are second-generation students with even a few third-generation students. In general, families in the city choosing to take advantage of the program recognize the benefits for them of enrolling their children in a suburban district. Similarly, suburban school districts also recognize the benefit of a more diverse student population to prepare their students for the future. With the nation and the St. Louis community becoming increasingly diverse, most families recognize this program as being mutually beneficial and a “win win” opportunity for everyone involved. The program has a long track record of increasing the graduation rate, attendance rate, and achievement levels of students involved in the program. Other key factors that have led to the success of the program include a fair reimbursement rate to participating school districts (currently $7000 per pupil), and the effective management of the transportation of the students by the VICC. Since the state aid payments simply follow the students from their district of residence to the VICC program there are no additional costs to Missouri taxpayers.
Currently about 2,500 students participate in the program which is down from the peak participation of over 14,000 students in the 1999/2000 school year. Unfortunately due to certain legal limitations on the indefinite continuation of a race-based school integration program we have been gradually reducing the total number of students participating despite the mutual benefits for all students involved. This remains one of our biggest current challenges – how do we continue a program which has proven to be beneficial in light of the legal and financial challenges, given that racial segregation since the inception of the program has certainly not diminished and, in fact, has likely increased in many areas of metropolitan St. Louis? Our program has realized and demonstrated much success over the years as documented by empirical data as well as the many individual success stories of countless students. We need to work together as a community and a nation to identify opportunities to continue and expand upon the successes that our students have experienced.
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