News Story

Deficit-Ridden District Almost Demolishes Building Rather Than Take $3.5 Million From Charter

Saginaw school board eventually approves sale of vacant building to charter school

The Saginaw Public School district has been operating with a deficit since the 2010-11 school year, and the proposed sale of a shuttered school building could erase the red ink, according to the Michigan Department of Education.

Rather than sell the building to an interested party— a charter school — the Saginaw school board originally elected to demolish it. However, after months of effort, the board had a change of heart and approved the deal. On Thursday, the Saginaw district board accepted a $3.5 million offer from the Francis Reh Academy to purchase the Phoenix Science and Technology Center, which is said to be in “move-in” condition.

To make the deal happen, Francis Reh was forced to submit a second bid for the structure, even though it was not aware that there was another buyer. Saginaw Public Schools inherited the building after the 2013 dissolution of the fiscally failed Buena Vista School District.

“We won’t stop. We’re committed to our families that we will continue to grow and so we will find a location to make that happen,” Kate Scheid-Weber, the Francis Reh school leader, said four weeks ago. At that point, it looked like the conventional public school district would continue to ignore the offer from the charter school.

Francis Reh wants to expand its offerings to 12th grade. Last year, it added a ninth grade. Francis Reh graduates currently have little choice when it comes to high schools. Many attend the Saginaw district’s high schools.

Michigan Capital Confidential followed Francis Reh through the process of trying to acquire the Phoenix building, which is described in a video.

This is not the first time a charter school in Michigan has faced resistance when trying to buy an unused building from a conventional school district. In some cases, districts have officially adopted policies that ban sales to a charter. Although conventional school districts get funding from the same taxpayers and serve the same student populations as charter schools, they view them as competitors with the potential to attract students and the accompanying state funding dollars.

See video:

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.