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21. Lipsitz Silence of the Rams

21. Lipsitz Silence of the Rams - Chapter Ten The Silence o...

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Chapter Ten / The Silence of the Rams How St. Louis School Children Subsidize / the Super Bowl Champs George Lipsitz When the St. Louis Rams defeated the Tennessee Titans on January 23, 2000, to win the Super Bowl, the team's players, coaches, and management - \ deserved only part of the credit. Sports journalists covering the game cited the passing of Kurt Warner and the running of Marshall Faulk as the key factors in the Rams' .victory. Others acknowledged the leadership of head coach~Pick Vermeil, the player personnel moves of general manager John Shaw, and the financial acumen of team owner Georgia Frontiere. But no one publicly recognized the ~ontributions to the Rams' victory made by the 45,473 children enrolled in the St. Louis city school system. Eighty- five percent of these students are so poor that they qualify for federally subsi- dized lunches. Eighty percedt of them are African American. They did not score touchdowns, make tackles, kick field goals, or intercept passes for the team. But revenue diverted from the St. Louis school system through tax abatements and other subsidies to the Rams m'ade a crucial difference in giving the team the resources to win a Super Bowl. Children in St. Louis attend underfunded schools staffed by underpaid and inexperienced teachers. Beginning teachers in 'the district receive salaries of $26,501 with a B.A., $26,511 with an M.A:, and $29,443 with an Ed.D. or Ph.D. The average salary for. teachers in the ~istrict is $33,269 per year. 1 Compensation is so meager in St. Louis that teachers' union president Sheryl Davenport reports that the district cannot even attract qualified substitute teachers in competition with neighboring school sys- tems. Consequently, teacher assistants frequently staff classrooms when 225
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226 GEORGE LIPSITZ the primary instructor is absent. Out of 104 school districts in the region, the pay scale for teachers in St. Louis is the seventy-third lowest. During the 1990-1991 academic year, more Black students dropped out of the city's high schools (1,421) than graduated from them (966). 2 For every hundred students who begin the ninth grade in St. Louis schools, only thirty graduate. 3 The total dropout rate from the city schools in 1998-1999 was 18.7 percent, the highest in Missouri and more than three times the state average of 5.5 percent. 4 During the 1999 Missouri School Improvement Program review, the city's schools met only three of the state's eleven performance standards. Yet, at the same time, tax abatements for profitable businesses, including the Rams football team, deprived St. Louis children of $17 million annually in educational funding. 5 St. Louis's school-age children suffer a class injury because of the sub- sidies received by Rams. Students from low-income families lose access to educational dollars so that these can be spent guaranteeing the million- aire owner of the Rams the largest possible profits. The injury in this case is also a racial one, and not merely because most of the students in the city school system are Black. The starkly unequal educational opportuni-
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21. Lipsitz Silence of the Rams - Chapter Ten The Silence o...

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