Innovations in Education: Making Charter School Facilities More Affordable: State-driven Policy Approaches
December 2008
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Forms of State-driven Facilities Assistance

Recognizing that federal support is not enough, a number of states and Washington, D.C., have taken their own steps to ensure charter school students have the opportunity to learn in safe and appropriate settings. Subsequent sections of this guide examine three primary, state-driven policy approaches to mitigating charter schools' facilities needs by easing operators' access to funding, affordable financing, or publicly financed space.

Direct cash assistance for facilities. Part I examines how some jurisdictions are providing a dedicated funding stream in the form of a per-pupil allocation or other grant program funds specifically directed to support charter school facilities.

Ability to borrow money for facilities. Part II looks at the various ways in which jurisdictions are helping charter school operators obtain affordable capital to buy, lease, or upgrade their facilities. These methods include giving operators easier access to tax-exempt or interest-free bond financing, setting up special low-cost loan programs, and providing credit enhancement opportunities for charter schools.10

District provision of facilities. Part III explores what some jurisdictions are doing to encourage or mandate districts to provide charter schools with facilities. These strategies range from providing facilities at no cost to providing them at a market rate.

Currently, 17 of the nation's 41 charter laws have authorized per-pupil or other grant funding programs for charter school facilities.11 Many of the jurisdictions with charter laws enhance the borrowing capacity of these schools by allowing them to access tax-exempt debt markets or offering credit enhancement.12 Yet very few states authorize or encourage districts to provide charter schools with facilities directly.13 This publication features examples of how these various types of support are being implemented in eight states and Washington, D.C. The guide does not describe every facilities support effort in each jurisdiction; rather, it focuses on those that are most intensive and most effectively implemented, as determined by the researchers with guidance from project advisors (see appendix A for additional details about the site selection process). Table 1 shows the facility financing assistance programs and policies featured in this guide, by form of assistance and charter school jurisdiction.

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Last Modified: 02/05/2009