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‘No reason to fear a charter school,’ West Bloomfield treasurer told school board

But board voted anyway to tear down Roosevelt Elementary, build new school with millage money

When West Bloomfield School District treasurer Carol Finkelstein testified before lawmakers in February, she said the district had to tear down a beautiful and historic elementary school to keep it out of the hands of charter schools.

But when Finkelstein updated her colleagues on the West Bloomfield Board of Education a week later, she told a different story.

“I see no reason to fear a charter school,” Finkelstein said at the March 4 meeting, “especially given the people sitting behind us who are adamantly opposed to it.” Watch the embedded video at the 1:54 mark.

Finkelstein was being asked about the claim she had made in Lansing. Board member Deborah Evans asked if West Bloomfield had reason to believe a charter school would move in. Finkelstein said no.

Earlier Finkelstein quoted Dan Quisenberry, president of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, advising that charter schools do not go where they are not wanted.

But that’s not what Finkelstein told lawmakers a week earlier. See the linked video at 47:50: 

Roosevelt is a beautiful 104-year-old historic building that is facing demolition because we simply cannot afford to have it become a competing school.

The West Bloomfield school board voted Monday night to demolish Roosevelt Elementary School in Keego Harbor. The board also voted to seek a millage from local taxpayers to build another elementary school. In so doing, it rejected a $1.7 million offer to buy and renovate the century-old building. The Detroit News reports that Roosevelt Elementary is the oldest school building in Oakland County.

House Bill 5025, the legislation Finkelstein supported in her February testimony, would repeal a statewide ban on restrictive covenants for school buildings. At the board table, Finkelstein misrepresented the effect of state law on old school buildings.

“It’s causing buildings to be torn down that could be repurposed for housing,” Finkelstein said.

“Right now, they’re just deteriorating,” a colleague added.

Michigan law does not cause school buildings to be torn down.

The current law simply prohibits schools from attaching restrictive deeds to old buildings they sell. These restrictions keep developers from selling to charter school operators. Rep. Noah Arbit, D-West Bloomfield, introduced the bill. 

But as Finkelstein told colleagues at the March 4 meeting, even if the bill were passed, it wouldn’t take effect until spring 2025. It wouldn’t affect Roosevelt Elementary School, nor save it from the wrecking ball the West Bloomfield school board chose willingly.

In the end, Finkelstein was the one urging caution from her colleagues. Along with Evans, she urged the board to let the renovation offer play out. And in the end, the board decided to embrace the demolition that had been in the works for months.

Finkelstein did not respond to a request for comment.

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.