Retired investor Rex Sinquefield is apologizing for remarks he made Thursday at Lindenwood University when he quoted a former judge who claimed public schools were designed by the Ku Klux Klan to hurt African-American children.
He now says the comments were "ill-timed and inappropriate."
Sinquefield angered teachers with his remarks at the university's St. Charles campus during a policy lecture called "A Conversation about Good Business, Capitalism, and Liberty." He got onto the subject of tenure, which he wants abolished through an amendment to the Missouri Constitution.
"Many of the good (teachers) leave and go onto something else and the bad ones stay," he said. "And their pay increases with time and grade. It is right now illegal to consider the performance of the students in setting the pay of teachers in Missouri. It’s illegal."
And then came the Klan statement.
"I mean, this is -- you know what. There was a column written and I hope I don’t offend anyone. There was a published column by a man named Ralph Voss, who was a former judge in Missouri. He now owns and writes for a newspaper in Central Missouri called the Unterrified Democrat -- what a name -- and it’s in Osage County, Missouri, and he starts off and it’s something like this. He said, ‘A long time ago, decades ago, the Ku Klux Klan got together and said how can we really hurt the African-American children permanently? How can we ruin their lives? And what they designed was the public school system.’"
Rep. Chris Carter, D-St. Louis, said he was "floored" by the statement, and Rep. Margo McNeil. D-Florissant said she was "flabbergasted." Missouri National Education Association condemned Sinquefield’s remarks.
"To call the work of educators in public schools a KKK conspiracy shows how out of touch billionaire Rex Sinquefield truly is," said Chris Guinther, a teacher on leave from the Francis Howell School District. "This is a slap in the face of every educator who has worked tirelessly in a public school to improve the lives of Missouri’s children. Rex Sinquefield needs to explain himself and apologize to all students, parents and Missourians."
Sinquefield did apologize. A spokeswoman emailed this statement from Sinquefield this afternoon:
"I apologize for my reference to a quote from Ralph Voss of the Unterrified Democrat. The public discourse on these issues is too critical for an ill-timed, inappropriate reference. It is my sincere hope that this does not distract us from the important mission of helping all children access a high-quality education."