Thursday, August 1, 2013

Charter School Facilities

Today I participated in a webinar titled "Charter School Facilities: The Pursuit for Equity" presented by Education Week. You can view all of the slides here.

There were two presenters: first, Jim Griffin, former president, Colorado League of Charter Schools, and current president, Momentum Strategy and Research, who is part of the Charter Schools Facilities Initiative and analyzes data from over 1,000 charter schools in 12 states.  On average, these schools are spending 8.5% of their operating dollars on their buildings. 

The most cost effective facility scenario would be using existing facilities owned by school districts.  In this case, charter schools are only paying 1.8% of PPOR-- per pupil operating revenue.  In cases where the charter school purchases their own building, they put 9% of their PPOR toward building expenses, and renting from a private owner is the most expensive scenario-- paying 10% of PPOR.

Only 10-30% of charter schools have facilities that meet or exceed industry standards and roughly 32.6% of charter schools have classrooms that meet or exceed grade level standards.

About 26% of charter schools do not have computer labs (nor mobile labs.)

38% of charter schools do not have kitchens that are compliant National Student Lunch Program guidelines, which is significant because NSLP is a major factor for determining financial need and therefore funding; implications of NSLP go beyond just feeding the kids.

Two questions that the Department of Education has asked and the CSFI will investigate this year are:
* Do classroom size, kitchens facilities, and access to gyms and computer labs relate to school performance outcomes for charter schools?
* Do lower performing charter schools spend less on their facility than higher performing charter schools?

The second presenter was Ricardo Soto, senior vice president, legal advocacy, and general counsel for special education and facilities, California Charter Schools Association.  He offered useful information on assessing the needs for the facility and calculating the amount of space needed.

Unique to California is Proposition 39 which states that "School districts are obligated to provide charter schools with equitable facilities to district facilities" regardless of whether the district is the authorizer, provided that at least 80 district students are served by the charter school.

We need to find out if there are any such provisions in Washington State. 

What existing community spaces in Sunnyside might work for our charter school?