Bill to allow charter schools to occupy empty, underutilized school buildings passes House

Charter schools may fill empty public schools

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - A Senate bill that would allow public charter schools to occupy vacant or underutilized public school buildings has now passed the Arkansas House.

Senate Bill 308 initially failed on Wednesday on 50-32 vote, but on Thursday the bill passed the House by a vote of 53 to 32. 

In February, Senator Alan Clark (R-Lonsdale) told us that while he didn't know what a charter school was four years ago, he doesn't see a reason why people shouldn't have a choice in which school they attend.

"There's no reason why folks shouldn't have a choice," Clark said, "where we've got charter schools, which are public schools, and we've got these folks, which are tax payers too and we have an empty building. Why should we not be able to access that building?"

But, Save Our Schools, who are against the bill said it takes away the "power of local taxpayers and their elected school boards" to determine what's best for school facilities.

The bill states that a school district can make a school available for lease or purchase for "no more than fair market value" to any public charter school located within the school district's geographical boundaries.

"SB308 also makes it harder for your local school board to give an old or unneeded school building to a community non-profit as a community center, a pre-k center, a health clinic, a library or any other of a number of legitimate uses," Save Our Schools said in a Facebook post.

The bill will now be sent to the Senate and then heads to Governor Asa Hutchinson where it will await his signature to make it into law.

© 2017 KTHV-TV


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