California Charter Public Schools Face Detrimental Facilities Inequities According to New Study

April 20, 2015

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Dannie Tillman
California Charter Schools Association
(213) 924-2439

Stacy Rader
Colorado League of Charter Schools
(303) 989-5356, ext. 112

Riya V. Anandwala
National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
(202) 521-2833

CCSA Proposes Policy Solutions to Advance Facilities Parity for Charter School Students

(Sacramento, CA) - Today, the results of a comprehensive statewide facilities study, "An Analysis of The Charter Schools Facility Landscape in California," was released offering insight into the facilities issues charter schools face throughout the state of California and synthesizes comprehensive data collected and analyzed in 2014 from schools across the state that detail the facilities challenges of both classroom-based and nonclassroom-based charters.

The report is a collaborative effort by the National Charter School Resource Center (NCSRC), The Charter School Facilities Initiative (developed and managed by the Colorado League of Charter Schools), the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (Alliance) and the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA).

"This report unequivocally demonstrates that because of facilities inequities, public school students attending charter schools in California are placed at an educational disadvantage when compared to their peers in traditional public schools," said CCSA President and CEO Jed Wallace. "As demand for charters grow, so too will the demand for facilities and facilities funding. Finding sustainable solutions to provide adequate school facilities to students and their families is an absolute necessity."

California is home to the largest number of charters in the nation, with an estimated 547,800 students attending 1,184 schools. Additionally, 85 percent of charter schools surveyed plan to grow their enrollment over the next five years in part, to meet the needs of the 91,000 students on waitlists statewide. Sixty-four (64) percent of those charter schools do not have the space for their desired enrollment growth.

Among the key report findings:

California charter schools spend significant amounts of their per-pupil revenue on facilities.
- Charter schools that own their facility pay an average of $895 per pupil, or 13.2 percent of their per pupil revenue.
- Charters renting from a private organization pay an average of $570 per pupil, or 8.3 percent of their per pupil revenue.
- Charter schools residing in a school district facility pay an average of $285 per pupil, or 4.3 percent of their per pupil revenue.

More charter schools that lease facilities need access to the state reimbursement program and at a higher rate.
- While over 300 charter schools receive state reimbursement funds for their lease costs, more than 300 other charter schools do not receive any state reimbursement funds.
- Moreover, charter schools that lease school facilities on average pay twice the amount of their per pupil revenues than charter schools in school district facilities.

Three-fourths of charter schools located on district space through Proposition 39 are satisfied with their school facility, but less than half of all charter schools have access to school district facilities statewide.
- 78 percent of charter schools that obtained district space through the Proposition 39 process are satisfied with their facility.
- 43 percent of charter schools are housed in district facilities.

Charter schools that own their facility pay, on average, the largest portion of their per pupil revenue for their facility.
- The Charter School Facility Program is designed to provide charter schools with a grant representing only 50 percent of a school project cost, while the charter must provide a 50 percent matching share.
- Charter schools that own their facility pay an average of $895 per pupil, or 13.2 percent of their per pupil revenue.

Nonclassroom-based charter schools incur similar facilities expenses to classroom-based charter schools, yet lack access to facilities funding programs.
- The average annual facilities payment for nonclassroom-based resource center facilities surveyed was $196,406, or $416 per student.
- However, nonclasroom-based schools are not eligible for funding under facilities funding programs such as the Charter School Facility Grant Program (SB 740) and the state bond funded Charter School Facilities Program.

"Launching the Charter School Facilities Initiative in Colorado allowed us to collect data that confirmed what our schools were telling us-that costly and inequitable facilities were the largest challenge faced by public charter schools in our state," said Nora E. Flood, president of the Colorado League of Charter Schools. "The facilities reports from California and the other 14 states reviewed to date confirm that public charter schools nationwide struggle with access to suitable school facilities and paying for those facilities. California and other states around the nation must act to ensure that public charter school students across the U.S. have access to equitable school buildings without affecting classroom spending."

"As the California and national charter school sector continues to grow, so does the need for reliable data on charter school facilities," said Mukta Pandit, president of Safal Partners which operates the NCSRC. "Through the California report and future reports on other states, the NCSRC aims to provide stakeholders with accurate survey and onsite measurement-based information to address facilities needs. The more we understand the facilities problem, the closer we will come to solving the issue."

"This report sheds light on one of the most significant challenges facing the health of the charter school movement in California and throughout the country," said Nina Rees, president and CEO at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. "Charter schools should not have to spend dollars from their per pupil operating budget on costs like facilities. Our Model Law provides several possible solutions that could potentially ease the problem. It's time for state lawmakers to consider such solutions to enable charter schools in California and across the country to have access to sufficient facilities."

Based on its objective findings, the report suggests that policy changes are critical to changing the landscape for charter public schools in the state. Recognizing that facilities challenges remain the number one issue for charter schools in California, CCSA is sponsoring two pieces of legislation in the 2015-16 legislative year that will help alleviate some of the challenges schools face.

AB 1198 (Dababneh) creates the California Credit Enhancement Program within the California School Finance Authority and, if passed, will provide lower cost alternatives for charter school facility financing through a leveraged public-private partnership program.

AB 1344 (Jones) will require local school districts to hear charter school zoning waiver requests and creates an appeal mechanism for charter schools that are denied those zoning exemptions by their local district board. CCSA is also actively supporting the additional $50 million in charter school facilities funding Governor Jerry Brown has included in his proposed 2015-16 state budget.

Learn More

California Charter Schools Association
The California Charter Schools Association's vision is to increase student learning by growing the number of families choosing high quality charter public schools so that no child is denied the right to a great public education. Our mission is to ensure a million students attend charter public schools by 2022, with charter public schools outperforming non-charter public schools on every measure. We do this by serving as the advocacy organization that builds the policy environment needed to grow as quickly as possible the number of students attending high quality charter public schools.

Colorado League of Charter Schools The Colorado League of Charter Schools is a non-profit, membership organization dedicated to supporting the charter schools in the state. The League is committed to helping these schools reach higher levels of student performance and overall success by providing information and resources, including technical support, advocacy, public relations assistance, and much more.

National Charter School Resource Center The National Charter School Resource Center (NCSRC) is dedicated to supporting the development of high-quality charter schools. The NCSRC provides technical assistance to sector stakeholders and has a comprehensive collection of online resources addressing the challenges charter schools face. The website hosts reports, webinars, and newsletters focusing on facilities, funding opportunities, authorizing, English Learners, special education, military families, board governance, and other topics. The NCSRC is funded by the U.S. Department of Education and led by education consulting firm Safal Partners.

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is the leading national nonprofit organization committed to advancing the public charter school movement. Our mission is to lead public education to unprecedented levels of academic achievement by fostering a strong charter sector.