Charter School Facilities Are a Political Issue

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October 26, 2012 With the deadline for the Proposition 39 facilities application happening this week, I believe it's worthwhile to talk about why facilities are such an important issue to the charter school movement. I know this isn't news to you if you've developed a charter school yourself and were involved in securing a facility & funding for your facility. It's difficult work and acquiring financial resources to make it happen is always challenging.

Traditional public schools are provided specific funding for facilities. There are some charter schools spending up to 15 to 20 percent of their operating budgets to pay for their facilities. That 15 to 20 percent for facilities should be used for other priorities that the schools and their stakeholders deem appropriate such as more resources toward the classroom, increased resources for students & families, or increased pay and benefits for staff. This list could go on and on.

Some of you probably have heard me mention that education is a very political thing, and charter schools will add a new wrinkle to those political arguments. Equity in funding and facilities equity is a priority issue for the Association.

These issues put us in the midst of very challenging political arguments. It is for these reasons that we encourage schools to pursue ways to document the need schools have regarding facilities and challenges in maintaining the physical structures of your school. Proposition 39 is one way to document need and for the sake of the movement we encourage schools to participate in the process. Of course there are other ways to engage in the argument of facilities equity that we also encourage. Participation in the SB 740 facilities funding if your school qualifies is a good & advantageous way to acquire funding for your school.

Another very important thing to keep in mind is when a school district is pursuing a bond and your school falls within that district's boundaries, it is important that charters create a unified voice in communicating to the public and district that charter schools should receive their fair share of those tax dollars. For example if charter schools make up five percent of that district's public school student population then it makes sense that five percent of the funding from the bond initiative, if passed should be allocated to charter schools.

The only way the things I've discussed in this piece can happen is by each charter school recognizing that they play a role in the larger charter school movement and take action. Please contact me if you'd like to discuss these issues further. I hope you will.

John Madrid
Regional Director, Central Valley