Time Is Up For School Building Hoarders, Ducey Signs SB1161

For years, Tucson Unified School District leaders refused to sell closed schools to charter school operations. After Governor Ducey signed SB1161 this week, closed school hoarders like those at Tucson Unified will not have choice.

SB1161, sponsored by Senator Vince Leach, is part of a decade-long effort to identify and use vacant classroom space in Arizona.

“It’s no surprise with our fast growth and open enrollment/school choice options that you have some schools bursting at the seams, and others with several empty rooms,” said Senator Leach. “It has been a challenge to find the right way to address this inequity. I believe SB 1161 does it.”

According to groups such as the Goldwater Institute, it is believe that there is at least 1.4 million square feet of vacant school building space in Arizona.

SB 1161 changes reporting requirements by telling districts to report buildings with at least 4,500 square feet of unused space. It also allows districts to sell vacant facilities without having to call an election.

Another key part of SB 1161 is the establishment of school partnerships to operate schools or offer educational services in a vacant or partially used district building.