A St. Louis student lived in this northside home, just last year. Today, it sits vacant and abandoned because our City government punishes people in poverty rather than funding our schools.
The low-income former owners of this home owed no mortgage; the house was paid off decades ago. They were simply unable to afford their real estate taxes, which provide funding for our schools. Instead of lowering the taxes to an affordable rate so that the property could remain on the tax rolls and still provide some money for public education, state statute dictates the property be auctioned off. This is not an isolated, out-of-the-ordinary situation; dozens of northside families in St. Louis City face this same fate every year.
We push low-income homeowners out of their homes, uproot the family, and displace the students, often forcing them to change schools and fall behind on their studies. Even when a property sent to auction fetches zero bids from auction-goers, the property is given to the St. Louis Land Reutilization Authority by default. Management of the property is then turned over to Eagle Realty, a company owned by a wealthy developer. Instead of working with homeowners (many of whom inherited these properties as their only asset), Eagle Realty takes taxpayer money—which should go to our public schools—to evict the homeowner and the board the house up. Yes, we are paying the rich to displace the poor and defund our schools. As long as we continue boarding up the houses of our most marginalized citizens, we will continue boarding up schools in the neighborhoods that need them most.
This photograph symbolizes so many things wrong with our educational system. The large sheet of notebook paper encourages our student to perform well on the MAP test, a standardized test which is given at the end of every school year to assess student performance. It is accompanied by notes on test-taking skills. The pencil sharpener mounted on the wall suggests a parent who was dedicated to their child’s academic success. How can we expect our low-income students to achieve high test scores when we treat their families like second-class citizens?
Keeping our neighborhood schools open should be a top priority. But it seems that St. Louis City prefers to use our schools as warehouses for children in order to fatten the pockets of the privileged and politically-connected, while depriving our kids of the comfort of a stable home environment. Our children suffer mentally, emotionally, and academically with each and every move to a new housing situation. Imagine how much worse that trauma is when the Sheriff’s deputies arrive, ordering them to vacate their longtime family home where a lifetime of memories was made. Imagine how this shapes a child’s view of law enforcement.
It’s time we start investing in our students by keeping SLPS families where they want to be. We must stabilize our neighborhoods in order to strengthen our schools.
#VoteVowell on April 4th!
After the integration of schools, things got worse—not better—for African Americans in St. Louis. A 1971 state statute implemented the seizure of homes with delinquent property taxes, primarily in Black neighborhoods. It’s still in effect. Fully-paid-off homes are taken away, leaving fixed-income seniors/veterans nothing to pass on to their children; each generation must start from scratch. The “bootstraps” argument does not apply when our government keeps confiscating our boots.
Neighborhood schools are essential to our district. When kids get up at 5:00 in the morning to catch the bus to a school across town and don’t get home until 6pm or later… When do they eat? When do they spend time with their families and play with their friends? When do they do their homework? How much sleep do they get? How can they be expected to achieve the learning necessary to achieve acceptable MAP test scores? We give obscene amounts of money to the transportation industry to bus our kids all over the city, yet there is usually a boarded-up school within walking distance of every student’s house, not to mention several boarded-up houses along the way.
We need schools near where families live—especially here on the northside, where fewer of us have vehicles. As your St. Louis City School Board member, I will stop using our children as checkbooks to bankroll corporations. Since 2014, I’ve prevented over 60 homes from going to auction and becoming vacant. I will keep fighting our broken system on all fronts, until every child in our city has access to a quality education in their neighborhood—with ZERO systemic barriers to their potential for success.
#VoteVowell on April 4th!
“It never made sense to take revenue from our schools, give it to the very people discriminating, and force our children to stand at dark, cold bus stops in the early morning and dark night hours in order to receive an equal education. It didn’t make sense, but it made a lot of dollars for those who should have been the last to be economically rewarded.”
— Dr. Christi Griffin – Former Chair, St. Louis Civil Rights Enforcement Agency
Read more about how U.S. schools are re-segregating here:
Natalie and her team have been out in the streets since December, knocking doors all over St. Louis City. Our campaign is powered by people. Our donors are activists. Our phone bank is our friends list. Every yard sign that goes up is for someone like you who personally knows Natalie and her work in the community. Our supporters aren’t just voters; they’re friends.
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This weekend, I was in Springfield, MO visiting my parents. Our Bernie family (and my actual family) have provided some of the greatest support and love I’ve experienced. I’m fortunate to have made new friends and allies across the country through the Bernie Sanders movement. We grassroots folks get things done — no matter how little we have to work with.
Without much of a real workspace… Here we are, making #VoteVowell buttons with my father, “Dad The Rad”, and my fellow DNC Delegate Amy Powell from Show Me Our Revolution of Greene County, MO…in the break room of my Dad’s car dealership. The #PoliticalRevolution is everywhere!
“A parent arrives home one day to find the family’s possessions sitting on the curb. Those eviction threats were all too real. A basement fills with water and the landlord won’t come around to deal with the problem. The family has no choice but to move. An ex-boyfriend is making threats. A nearby apartment complex has a rent special going on. A family moves to be closer to a parent’s new job. For many reasons, families move over the course of the school year. For children and their schools, the consequences can be profound.”
The article below highlights one reason I’m running for St. Louis City School Board. My work with Project Raise The Roof keeps families in their homes. We make sure those properties remain on the tax rolls, funding our schools—and that our students have a stable learning environment. St. Louis City must address the root of our problems. We need stability before we can achieve sustainability.
For 4th grade teacher Angelica Saddler and her colleagues at Ingels Elementary School, a high student churn rate means extra work and challenges. BARBARA SHELLY / KCUR 89.3
I believe in using any available resource to help others and change perceptions. Last June, I opened the first and only 3 Airbnb’s north of Delmar, and they have been booked solid since they were listed. For the past several months, I have offered modest, flexibly-priced spaces in North St. Louis to people both in the City and from numerous cities and countries via Airbnb. By pairing otherwise vacant properties with people who have limited options for living situations, I hope to help those in transition find their way to stable housing. Our guests have included foreign exchange students, business travelers, and City residents escaping slum lords or domestic violence.
I intend to show out-of-towners and fellow St. Louisans that, while North City has its ups and downs, the vast majority of the residents here are decent, hard working citizens, a few of whom are navigating the margin between oppression and destitution. There are wonderful people here on the northside. While it’s critical for us to confront our shortcomings as a city, we must also get to know our neighbors and focus on the positive aspects of our neighborhoods. It’s refreshing to see the media reporting some good news from this side of town, and I’m fortunate to be a part of some of the great things happening here.
Click the links below for the written article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and the video news segments from KSDK and Fox 2.
I’m proud to be endorsed by Representative Bruce Franks, Jr. and 5th Ward Democratic Committeeman Rasheen Aldridge! It has been an honor to stand with these superheroes over the past couple years. I’m excited to continue our work together in taking a hands-on, holistic approach to empowering ALL St. Louis students and families.
Click here to add your own endorsement for Natalie!
Thank you all for your nonstop hard work and support.
With love and solidarity,