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Pinellas Democrats join chorus calling for federal, state investigations of St. Petersburg's failing schools

State Rep. Darryl Rouson has asked the state attorney general's office of civil rights to investigate whether the Pinellas County School Board's decisions amount to racial discrimination against five predominantly black elementary schools in St. Petersburg.

Rouson's letter Wednesday to Danille Carroll, the office's director, asked for a state review to identify whether the "dismal funding" and staff turnover at Melrose, Campbell Park, Maximo, Lakewood and Fairmount Park schools "a pattern or practice of racial discrimination."

"These issues demand redress," Rouson's letter stated.

A Tampa Bay Times investigation raised serious questions about the use of federal dollars for poor children and the overall quality of education students are receiving in those schools.

Rouson told the Tampa Bay Times that he wanted to bring every lever of power to bear on the problem.

"I want to be able to address community concerns...The real issue is we are here now and how can we gather all of the resources, local, state and federal, to stop the critical bleeding," he said. "I'm feeling terrible. I'm feeling like the wind has been knocked out of me."

Rouson was the president of the St. Pete NAACP from 2000-2005. He was elected to the Legislature in 2008.

Eric Lynn, the only announced candidate for whatever turns out to be Florida's 13th Congressional District also weighed in Wednesday, reacting to U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor's call for a federal review of the "crisis" in south St. Petersburg's schools.

"The test results might say our students are failing, but the reality is we're failing our students. As a product of Pinellas County schools and a graduate of St. Pete High, I'm appalled by an education system that doesn't prepare all of our kids – not just the privileged – to compete in a global economy. It is unacceptable, and in Congress I will fight hard to improve funding for all of our schools, the quality of every Pinellas classroom, and each student's chance to succeed," Lynn said in a statement.

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