Cincinnati: We'll sell you a school building, just don't use it for a school

Can a school district sell a school building and prohibit the buyer from opening a school in that building?

It seems laughable, but the Cincinnati Public Schools are suing an individual who purchased the district's vacant Roosevelt School because the purchaser plans to open a charter school in that space. Apparently, the sale agreement contained a provision requiring the purchaser to only use the property for commercial purposes. The purchaser bought the facility for $30,000 at auction, agreed to the terms, and then commenced with plans to open a charter school in the space (a plan that a city zoning inspector signed off on in October).

Setting aside the legal question of whether such a restrictive provision is void as against public policy, the lawsuit shows what a joke the state's charter school right of first refusal law really is. State law requires school districts to sell ???????suitable??????? classroom space by first offering the property for sale to start-up local charter schools. In five years of working in charter school authorizing, I don't think I've ever come across a district actually using this provision.

The reality is that are precious few high-performing schools serving Ohio's urban children. If a district is selling a facility, and there is a good charter school that could use it, this should be a no brainer. (For example, an outstanding charter school currently in need of facilities is Columbus Collegiate Academy -- one of the highest performing middle schools in Columbus.) If the concern is about charter school quality, the state should simply tie eligibility for the facility to a school's academic performance.

-Kathryn Mullen Upton

Kathryn is the????Fordham Foundation's director of Ohio charter school sponsorship.

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