Thursday, July 22, 2004

Government property isn't yours 

The local school board recently combined schools, leaving it with two buildings to sell. It has received bids; the highest bid on one of them is from a Christian school looking to expand; the highest on the other is a day-care center that would include a center for children with autism. But they might not get it.
Some board members are concerned about selling the schools to an organization that might compete with the district for students. St. Cloud school district is expected to lose students for an eighth straight year. ...

Board member Carol Lewis said the board has to decide if the decision should be purely financial or whether it makes more sense to take a lower bid that serves a greater community purpose and won't make it easier for someone to compete with public schools.

"I think we have to look at all of those," Lewis said.
Carol is a friend of mine, but: I don't think her job includes deciding to trade money for "community purposes". (The second-ranked alternatives are an assisted-living facility for veterans on one building, and an Islamic center for the other.) Her job is to act as a steward of monies she receives, including that from a contentious levy, and using it solely to prevent competition is simply not good stewardship. While the money from the sale cannot be used for programs or salaries, only other capital expenditures, that money could be used (by reducing the need for unencumbered funds to devote to capital expenditures) to actually improve public school programs to persuade parents to keep kids in the district.

As well, if you have school buildings for sale, wouldn't you expect that your bidders would be people wanting to run schools?