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Sell or tear down? That might not be an option for Michigan school districts in the future

Feb 3, 2015

Many school districts around Michigan own buildings they are not using. 

A state lawmaker wants to make sure those buildings don’t fall to the wrecking ball if another educational institution wants to buy them. 

Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Last week, the Saginaw Board of Education voted not to accept a multi-million dollar offer from a local charter school for a building the district was trying to sell. The board then voted to use state funds to tear the building down.

That didn’t sit well with Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Saginaw Twp.

Kelly is drafting legislation that would bar school districts from using public funds to tear down a building if there is a “bona fide” offer to buy the building for an educational use. 

Kelly’s office says the legislation may be ready to submit by the end of the week. 

That’s good news to Dan Quisenberry.

He’s the president of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies. MAPSA represents the interests of charter schools in Michigan. 

He called the Saginaw school board actions last week “outrageous.” 

Quisenberry thinks Kelly’s bill will help expand educational opportunities.

“It’s a matter of, are we going to use this to educate children or are we going to play local politics,” says Quisenberry.

Don Wortruba is with the Michigan Association of School Boards. 

He’s concerned the proposed law would hurt financially troubled school districts by forcing them to sell buildings to charter schools they compete against for students.

“You don’t want to end up selling it and then find out three years later that it has created a deeper deficit and you have to close your doors,” says Wortruba.

Wortruba says this is a decision best left up to the local school district officials.