As reported by the Sun Newspapers ("Beacon Academy interested in leasing Pilgrim Lane in Plymouth," February 12, 2009), Beacon is interested in leasing (or buying) Pilgrim Lane Elementary, one of three Robbinsdale District 281 buildings scheduled to close at the end of the school year due to excess capacity:
Tamara Harken of Crystal, chair of the Beacon Academy board of directors, sent a letter to District 281 Board Chair Tom Walsh on Jan. 9, expressing her school's interest in leasing Pilgrim Lane beginning this fall.
"Our five-year plan to mature into a K-8 school has come to fruition, and we are currently searching for a location to house our 2009-2010 student body of 400 children," Harken's letter stated.
"It's nice to be bursting at the seams versus dealing with declining enrollment," said Ford.
The Sun Sailor reported that "District 281's policy until 2007 was not to rent or sell its surplus buildings to other schools that potentially would compete for the district's students."
The attitude that puts protecting one's turf ahead of serving the families of our community could be one reason that enrollment in some school districts is declining, while enrollment in charter schools like Beacon Academy is rising. Public school districts should not be afraid of school choice. In Sweden, public education funding follows the child, with the support of even the Swedish Teachers Union:
Sweden's school choice system was introduced in 1992. It is based on a virtual "voucher" which is equivalent in value to the average cost of educating a child in the local state school.
Parents can use this "voucher" to "buy" a place at the school of their choice. The idea is that funding follows the pupil and, in this way, the state supports the schools that are most popular with parents.
—"Swedish parents enjoy school choice," BBC.com