Missouri House bill would let charter schools buy buildings fro school boards

Sunday, April 12, 2009

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Rep. Chris Kelly says his co-sponsoring of a bill that would allow school boards to sell their buildings to any highest bidder -- including charter schools -- is his way of looking out for taxpayers.

The Columbia Democrat is still opposed to school choice or charter schools, but said he wants "to get the best return for taxpayers."

"I wouldn't have a problem with charter schools if they happen to be the highest bidder," Kelly said.

House Bill 1040 is being co-sponsored by Kelly and more than 100 state legislators. The bill would nullify any existing deed restrictions.

If passed, it could affect a 2007 decision by the St. Louis Board of Education. The board approved a restriction to keep public school buildings from being sold to charter schools, liquor stores, adult entertainment venues, distilleries and landfills.

Last month, the St. Louis board voted to close 17 of its 85 school buildings.

Kelly said he's opposed to the St. Louis schools' deed restriction, despite his charter school views.

"My interest is the taxpayers' interest, not the anti-charter interest," he said.

Bill sponsor Rep. Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, said he's confident the bill will get passed. He said he recently spoke with the St. Louis board's chief executive officer, Rick Sullivan, about the district's restriction possibly being changed.

Although the bill targets what is primarily a St. Louis issue, it also could affect Columbia public schools. The Columbia district is planning to close an elementary school at the winter break of the 2009-2010 school year to allow a new building to open.

Kelly said he would not be opposed to a private school buying the building.

"Whoever the high bidder is ought to buy the building," Kelly said, "and the taxpayers get the highest return."

Information from: Columbia Daily Tribune, http://www.columbiatribune.com

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