A New Approach for City School Property

A New Approach for City School Property

Late last week the Pittsburgh Board of Education approved a new set of guidelines on how to dispose of surplus property. With declining enrollment and some buildings not fit for rehabilitation, the District will now have a clear way of proceeding with the sale of property.

Key in this set of guidelines is the fact that charter schools will not be discriminated against buying District-owned property that is for sale. As the solicitor for the District noted the policy "removes the apparent bias against charter schools" who felt that they were not getting a fair shot at buying property. For instance, the URA-which is marketing some closed school buildings-had a note on its website that "the district prefers not to ‘encourage’ competing schools." That language is supposed to be removed as a result of the guidelines.

That does nothing to guarantee that the District won’t continue to stifle actual charter school competition by denying charters (two were turned down last month) but it might give parents who want choice some hope. Consider that the Center of Education Reform’s latest "Survey of America’s Charter Schools" found that 65% of all charter schools have a waiting list, which is up from 58% in 2008. On average, 239 children are waiting to enter a charter school.

If Pittsburgh Public Schools are confident in their product, then they should welcome all competition, especially those willing to take some property off of the District’s hands.