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InsiderOnline Blog: October 2012

How Much Do Some Public School Officials Hate Competition?

So much that they do something quite irrational with the public property placed in their trust: They refuse to sell unused school buildings to charter schools. Nelson Smith’s article on the problem provides a few examples:

• In late 2010, the Journal Sentinel reported that Milwaukee Public Schools spent more than $1 million a year to maintain 27 surplus school buildings. Yet the district refused sales to charter schools—on the grounds that they would compete with the district for students. In May 2011, the state legislature finally approved a measure allowing the City of Milwaukee to sell the buildings, despite the district’s objections.

• In December 2007, the Special Administrative Board of the St. Louis Public Schools approved terms on the sale of the old Hodgen Elementary School building that included a 100-year deed restriction prohibiting leasing of the building to medical clinics, taverns, adult entertainment facilities, and…charter schools. The restriction was removed by the board in 2009 after the measure was held up to well-deserved ridicule.

• In rural Pennsylvania, the Penns Valley Area School Board is leasing property for construction of a privately funded, $5 million community center that will house a YMCA, the county office for the aging, and other agencies. However, included in the 30-year lease is the following clause: “No groups in direct competition with the District are authorized to use the facility. Those groups in competition are defined as entities that serve the same purpose of the District at the same age level, i.e., charter schools.”

This kind of behavior will continue to be a problem, says Smith, until reforms give municipalities, rather than school districts, control of surplus school buildings. [Education Next, Fall 2012]

Posted on 10/11/12 06:16 PM by Alex Adrianson

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