Boosted by black clergy, a St. Louis coalition plans tuition-free schools

Posted: Friday, August 24, 2001

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- A coalition dissatisfied with public schools that serve black students announced plans to open four tuition-free schools within weeks.

St. Louis Academies said it had secured a $20 million loan, leased four buildings, and hired a former public school superintendent and 75 teachers. Initially, the schools will meet costs through a patchwork of federal programs.

The plan is modeled on charter schools, though the coalition last year failed to win charter school status, which requires sponsorship by the city school board or a public university.

Eight clergy joined together to come up with the idea for the schools, most of them from the Church of God in Christ, a black Pentecostal denomination.

Though organized by clergy, the schools will be nonreligious because the charter school law requires that, director Tim Daniels said.

One supporter, state Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, a Cape Girardeau Republican, said ''we're all stepping out with a leap of faith with this.''

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