U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Charter School Meetings

The USDA’s Community Facilities Programs offers direct loans, loan guarantees, and grants to develop or improve essential public services and facilities in communities across rural America, including charter schools. Over the past 10 years, nearly 100 charter schools have accessed over $500 million in USDA funding and the Charter School Facility Center is working to grow that number by increasing information and access to the funding.

Following a successful April launch meeting in Lansing, MI, the Charter School Facility Center sponsored a meeting in Sacramento on Charter Schools and USDA Financing on May 9. Held in conjunction with the California Charter Schools Association and Momentum Strategy & Research, the event brought together key California stakeholders well-positioned to improve opportunities for California charter schools via USDA financing. The event opened with the latest findings from Momentum’s ongoing research into the past decade of USDA’s charter school financing (Did you know that 50% of all loans are made in just three states?). USDA officials from DC and CA presented current info about their programs and lending opportunities while CCSA presented an update on California charter schools and facilities challenges. The resulting discussion explored the challenges that have prevented more widespread use of USDA financing in California and developed ideas for moving forward and improving access.

A state meeting was held on June 4 in Austin, TX, and an information session will be held at the National Charter Schools Conference.

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National Alliance Receives Charter Schools Program National Dissemination Grant to Establish the Charter School Facility Center

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Friday, September 28, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement awarded the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools a $2.4 million grant over three years to establish the Charter School Facility Center (CSFC), the first-ever entity solely dedicated to helping public charter schools access better and more affordable facilities and facility financing.

There are an estimated 5 million additional students that would attend a charter school if they had access to one today, but current charter school supply can't keep pace with demand. One key reason is lack of access to facilities. While district schools have access to many options for financing, renovation, and construction of school buildings, charter schools cannot access those financing mechanisms to get the facilities they need to open, grow, and expand.

“At a time when demand for charter schools is increasing, lack of access to affordable, suitable facilities is our biggest challenge," said Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. "Studies show that nearly one-in-five schools were forced to delay their opening by a year or more due to facilities related issues. The Charter School Facility Center is a critical step to addressing this problem and ensuring all students have access to a high-quality public-school building.”

The CSFC will capture and share existing best practices for improving and funding facilities for charter schools, and will develop new, innovative solutions to address this challenge. Among other activities, the CSFC will create a national advisory board of industry leaders to improve the collection of existing best practice resources and identify new ideas that merit wide dissemination. In addition, the CSFC will support discrete projects to address specific needs, such as acquiring affordable funding for rural facilities.

The National Alliance looks forward to tackling this work with our partners and leaders in the field including the Tennessee Charter School Center (TCSC) and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), a nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution. TCSC will support local capacity building through technical assistance and LISC will build on their online research portal, SchoolBuild, which provides critical data on charter school facility transactions and guides schools through the facility development process from start to finish.

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