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I am pleased to introduce Making Charter School Facilities More Affordable: State-driven Policy Approaches, the latest guide in the Innovations in Education series. This guide complements earlier charter-school-related guides in the series, one that examines high-quality charter authorizers and another that looks at charter schools that are closing achievement gaps by raising all students' academic performance.
Charter schools have demonstrated that—by design—they can be positioned to innovate and excel, utilizing unique organizational structures and new and promising instructional strategies. Free from many of the regulations that govern traditional public schools, charter schools exchange this flexibility for greater accountability for results. However, these schools often face difficult challenges that their traditional counterparts do not experience.
For example, charter schools frequently have to secure and pay for their facilities. Many of these schools must cover capital costs by diverting funds that were intended for instruction. The lack of dedicated facilities funding and the effort charter school leaders must expend to search for and maintain appropriate facilities can take away from teaching and learning. Anecdotal accounts suggest that, due to high facilities costs, a large number of qualified charter schools never even open their doors. Parents and communities who look to charter schools to provide promising choices for their children's education expect and deserve better.
This guide profiles policy interventions from eight states and the District of Columbia that have been developed to help charter schools address various facilities-related challenges. While this guide does not describe every effort, in the following pages you will learn how some jurisdictions have dedicated funding streams to support charter facilities and how others have helped charter school operators access relatively low-cost financing to lease, buy, or renovate their school buildings.
The No Child Left Behind Act recognizes the value of charter schools in our national effort to ensure that every child can read and do math on grade level by 2014. I hope policymakers and charter school advocates can learn from the examples provided here and help charter schools gain access to the resources that they and their students need to succeed.
Margaret Spellings, Secretary
U.S. Department of Education