Charter schools will now — at least in theory — be able to buy shuttered St. Louis Public School buildings.
The St. Louis Public School Board voted last night to lift the deed restriction that barred charter groups from buying the former city schools.
District CEO Rick Sullivan said that the board simply bent to legislative pressure.
“The legislature felt very strongly that the provision was unfair or not appropriate,” he said. “We worked with legislative leaders to reach an understanding that I think is good for all parties.”
The ban had angered charter leaders searching for homes for their new schools, as well as dozens of state politicians tired of seeing the old buildings sit unattended in their districts, drawing crime and vandalism. (See prior coverage HERE.)
Word began to leak out at last night’s meeting that board members, in closed session, had voted to lift the ban. St. Louis Public wouldn’t confirm the news, but charter supporters began whispering.
Then, this morning, St. Louis Public made the news official.
State Rep. T.D. El-Amin, a Democrat who represents much of north St. Louis, said so many people were leaning on the board, it was just a matter of time. “We knew it was a levy bound to break,” he said.
Charter school advocates began celebrating early.
“This is a win for families in St. Louis who are seeking better education options for their children and for all of the taxpayers in the city who paid for these buildings,” said Earl Simms, state coordinator for the Children’s Education Alliance of Missouri, a charter advocacy organization. “These buildings can now be sold to organizations seeking to open public charter schools. That not only gives more education options to parents, but the sale of these buildings will also provide more dollars to educate the district’s students.”
Others said the decision will help charter schools open more quickly.
“Charter schools often find alternative facilities to serve students – empty commercial space or other buildings constructed for purposes other than education,” Aaron North, director of the state charter school association, said this morning. “Making unused public school buildings available for purchase or lease will provide new and existing charter schools with more options to best serve the students and families in their charge.”
Still, the practical implications of the board’s decision are unclear.
The move doesn’t require the district to sell to charters, just to consider their offers.
Besides, Sullivan said, the district now has a plan to grow.
It may very well still need some of those buildings.