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Minneapolis charter school's end run in lease dispute blunted

Posted by: Steve Brandt under People and neighborhoods, Politics and government Updated: July 24, 2013 - 3:10 PM

The Minnesota School of Science has tried to muster the Minnesota Department of Education’s muscle behind it in its landlord-tenant tussle for control of Minneapolis schools but to little avail.

About all the charter school got was a renewed statement by the department that it’s unhappy with the district’s dual relationship as the charter school’s state-required authorizer and its landlord.

The department cites a state charter school law that bars a charter school from entering a lease with a related party. Since paying lease aid to the school in 2011-2012, its first year of operation, the department has withheld rent aid under a reinterpretation of the law.

That means that the charter did now pay last year most of the rent called for in the school’s rental agreement for the Cityview building, leading to a legal action in which the district seeks to oust the school and the charter argues lack of rent aid negates most of its rent obligation.

The department’s letter earlier this month asks the district to provide information by Aug. 8 on how many leases the district has with charter schools it authorizes, and what it will do to avoid future such arrangements.

The department is well aware that the district has another such lease, in which it rents the Lincoln school building to Minneapolis College Prep.  It also denied lease aid in that case, and that arrangement was involved in the district’s court appeal.  The district lost its legal argument that the district isn’t one of the “related parties” that the law bars.  The district hasn’t taken action to cancel the Lincoln lease, saying that the lease is worded differently.

But Minnesota School of Science fell flat in its request to the department that it force the district to find a new authorizer, saying that state law requires mutual consent for a change of authorizer.  The district has refused that consent during the rental dispute.

The department is not without blame.  The law explicitly allows district eligible to be authorizers to rent space to the district, giving the department the right to approve or deny a charter’s lease.  The department did so, for both Minneapolis-authorized charters to which the district tis renting, before changing its interpretation.

You can read the correspondence here:

The district is planning to open a new district school next month  in Cityview if it can get the charter school evicted in time.
 

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