Money or diversity? An implementation analysis of the Voluntary Transfer Program in St. Louis, 1999-2009
A dual transfer program was created in 1983 in the St. Louis metropolitan area following a 1972 lawsuit brought upon the city, charging it with withholding an equal educational opportunity for Black students. Through this program, Black students from St. Louis City are provided with free transportation to one of 15 suburban school districts, and White students from the surrounding suburbs are eligible to attend city magnet schools. At its peak in 1999, enrollment reached approximately 15,000 students, of which over 13,500 were from St. Louis City. Following the lifting of the court order in 1999, suburban participation became voluntary and tuition reimbursements to the participating suburban districts were reduced. By 2009, program enrollment had fallen to approximately 7,000 students, of which 6,800 were from St. Louis City. Using critical policy analysis and a media framing analysis on almost 100 newspaper articles collected from four media outlets, this study found that, between 1999 and 2009, suburban implementation of the voluntary transfer program was largely affected by economic factors. Though the program is still in operation, and will continue through at least the 2018-2019 school year, this research raises important questions about the various factors that contribute to or hinder implementation of this long-running voluntary desegregation program.