Cautious Optimism on Sale of SLPS Buildings
In the past several years, St. Louis Public Schools has been forced to consider selling dozens of its former school buildings, which are no longer economically viable to maintain because of the steep drop the district has seen in the number of enrolled students. Knowing that these buildings would be very attractive to those interested in opening new charter or private schools, two years ago the district’s Special Administrative Board placed deed restrictions on the vacant buildings that would prohibit future purchasers from allowing charter or private schools to operate in those buildings. This was really just a formalization of an earlier, unwritten policy of refusing to sell empty buildings if the district suspected that they might be used for such purposes.
In the past few months, a broad coalition of legislators (led by Rep. Talib El-Amin) and education reform activists (led by the Children’s Education Alliance of Missouri) have pushed to have these deed restrictions lifted, either by action taken by the Special Administrative Board or by a vote of the General Assembly. This morning, David Hunn at the Post-Dispatch reported that the SAB has rescinded the formal deed restrictions.
Theoretically, this means that any buildings sold by SLPS will now go to the highest bidder — unless a government agency opts to bid for the property, in which case it will likely take precedence over a private purchaser. Time will tell whether the SAB (or the elected Board of Education, in the event they are ever given back control over the district) will actually put these buildings on the market for all interested parties, or whether they will implement a new plan that would selectively withhold properties that might be useful to potential charter and private schools.