ASU Preparatory Academy students and parents attended the Phoenix Elementary School District (PESD) Governing Board meeting Thursday night to talk about the fate of the charter school.
On July 26, PESD voted to increase the annual lease to $2.7 million, which is an 800 percent increase from the current annual lease.
"Why do you believe that your need to raise the rent by millions of dollars is more important than 1,200 kids getting a great education?" One parent asked during public comment.
"It doesn't seem as if there's a business transaction going on here, it looks like a hostile takeover," Sergio Mejia, another parent, said.
PESD Superintendent Larry Weeks started the meeting by explaining why the governing board voted for the increase. Weeks said that lease renewals occur every five years. He explained that the property value has increased since the last lease renewal in 2014. Weeks showed a PowerPoint presentation answering many of the questions that popped up after the initial vote.
One slide said: "Does the district governing board have an obligation by Arizona Statute to obtain the highest possible value from the lease of a building? Yes, as stated in A.R.S. 15-189. And, as responsible stewards of the taxpayers we serve, we take this seriously."
However, parents weren't buying that.
At least two parents used their public comment time to explain what A.R.S. 15-189 says.
According to the Arizona Legislature, A.R.S. 15-189 reads as follows:
"The school facilities board, in conjunction with the department of administration, shall annually publish a list of vacant and unused buildings and vacant and unused portions of buildings that are owned by this state or by school districts in this state and that may be suitable for the operation of a charter school. The school facilities board shall make the list available to applicants for charter schools and to existing charter schools. The list shall include the address of each building, a short description of the building, the name of the owner of the building and any other pertinent information related to the vacancy of the building. The school facilities board shall annually submit the list to the governor, the president of the senate and the speaker of the house of representatives and provide a copy of the list to the secretary of state. If a school district decides to sell or lease a vacant and unused building or a vacant and unused portion of a building, the school district may not prohibit a charter school from negotiating to buy or lease the property in the same manner as other potential buyers or lessees. A school district shall attempt to obtain the highest possible value under current market conditions for the sale or lease of the vacant and unused building or the vacant and unused portion of a building. Nothing in this section requires the owner of a building on the list to sell or lease the building or a portion of the building to a charter school or to any other school or to any other prospective buyer or tenant."
ASU Prep and PESD began a 60-day negotiating period to come up with a new lease on Aug. 8.
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