High demand for rural charter school - need for charter school facilities funds grows

July 8, 2015

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For a decade, Achieve Charter School of Paradise has been creating the kind of learning community that more and more parents are seeking out for their children. The K-8 school in Northern California's Butte County will grow to 230 students next school year with 200 students on the waiting list.

"Next school year, we will try to squeeze in 230 students and we have 200 students on our waiting list that we can't accommodate because we don't have the space," said Achieve Charter School Principal/Superintendent Casey Taylor. "We need more space - we are busting at the seams."

Like all charter schools in California, Achieve must use its operational budget on facilities if they don't meet restrictive eligibility requirements to access state facilities money. Spending operational funds on facilities has a direct impact on the school's ability to invest in important expenditures like teacher salaries, instructional programs, and classroom supports.

In fact, Achieve Charter School spent nearly 10 percent of their budget in 2014-15 on facilities. A large part of that goes toward renting a 60-year-old former Catholic school that originally accommodated 120 students - Achieve serves 215 students currently.

"We don't qualify for facilities funding," said Achieve Charter School Principal Casey Taylor. "Even though we have a large population of low-income students, we don't have a large enough percentage of low income students to qualify for any additional funding."

Currently, there are many restrictions on state grant money for charter school facilities. However, Achieve could benefit from the SB 740 Facility Grant Program that is part of the state budget decisions currently being made in the California State Legislature.

Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal in his May Revised Budget identifies an additional $50 million ongoing investment for the SB 740 Charter Schools facilities program. This would give charter schools greater access to school facilities funding.

"We do believe that part of the solution for charter schools will come through greater access to the state's facilities grant program by expanding the eligibility and expanding the pot of money that is available for charter schools," said Myrna Castrejon, senior vice president, CCSA government affairs.

According to Taylor, there are enough students on the waiting list to support Achieve opening up another school if they had access to facilities funds to secure another building.

"The community wants us to open up another school, we just don't have the space," Taylor said.