Charter School Facilities Financing Sources: Exploring Quality Opportunity Zones and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Programs

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Nationally, the demand for charter schools is high, yet access to affordable school facilities is a continued barrier to the growth of the charter sector. New charter organizers that are unable to obtain facility financing may need to delay opening their school for one or more years or postpone opening indefinitely. Many charter schools that are already open must change their building as their enrollment increases or when their original building no longer meets their needs. Other charter school operators plan to replicate their school into additional space or entirely new campuses. All of these new and changed facilities cost money.

This paper, produced by the National Charter School Resource Center (NCSRC) in partnership with the Colorado League of Charter Schools (CLCS) and Momentum Strategies & Research, addresses two intriguing sources of financing—one new and one benefitting from renewed attention: Qualified Opportunity Zones (QOZ) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development programs. Many charter schools are unaware of the financing available through these programs, so this paper explores the potential for charter schools to access these sources. Increased awareness of these programs may help charter schools obtain financing for a facility, resulting in continued growth of the charter sector and additional high-quality seats for students across the country.