November 2017 Newsletter

Federally-Funded Low-Cost Fund for Hurricane Damaged Charter Schools

Key Takeaways: Using funding from the federal Charter Schools Program’s Credit Enhancement Program, Building Hope established a mechanism to help charter schools recover quickly from hurricane damage with low-interest, modest loans for basic repairs.

When schools are damaged by a hurricane, “they want to get back in operation as soon as possible, so kids are in class, and have that stability in their life during a time of disaster,” explains Mark Medema, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Building Hope, a non-profit community development financial institution (CDFI). That rationale drove Building Hope’s effort to create a new, federally-backed loan fund to help charter schools in Florida damaged by Hurricane Irma.

Building Hope established a low-interest loan fund with money from a previously-awarded Credit Enhancement for Charter School Facilities Program (Credit Enhancement) grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) Charter Schools Program (CSP). In collaboration with ED, Building Hope used Credit Enhancement funds to help charter schools impacted by hurricanes recover more quickly. The hurricane recovery fund is designed to provide small two- or three-year loans at low interest rates. Separate funding is still available for other charter schools with larger emergency needs. Charter schools that have suffered damage from hurricanes can contact Building Hope here. Those interested in the Credit Enhancement program can learn more here

The first recipient of a recovery loan was the Oak Creek Charter School in Bonita Springs. The school is located just north of Naples, Florida, where Hurricane Irma hit with strong winds and torrential rain.

“Bonita Springs was hit pretty bad. The area had more damage than the Naples area in terms of flooding, wind, and rain, which displaced a lot of our families. Some of their homes were damaged by the rainwater and flooding and are uninhabitable,” explained Chuck S. Malatesta, CEO of FORZA Education Management, which operates the school.

The school used money from the recovery loan to repair damage from wind and water. The school’s roof was partially damaged, allowing water in that soaked walls. The roof had to be repaired, and water-logged dry-wall had to be removed and replaced.

Building Hope’s recovery loans are expected to be between $20,000 and $25,000, but can be larger as needed. Building Hope has set aside $100,000 of their Credit Enhancement grant and used that money to leverage $500,000 for the Florida recovery loan pool. Building Hope established a similar mechanism in Texas for schools affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Applications and awards for recovery loan funds are designed to be quick and simple, according to Matt Frost, Building Hope’s Manager of Underwriting. Describing the process, he explains, “We stripped down our standard loan application to catch only crucially-important information for this type of loan. There are four pieces of information that we require from the schools: a one-page loan application, audited financial statements, the board-approved budget, and the school’s by-laws. For each application we receive, we complete a review and get an external green light within 48 hours.” Schools that apply for recovery loans can expect to receive funding within five days.

Malatesta was grateful for the quick-turn around on the recovery loan, which allowed them to open for the new school year at the same time as the surrounding district. “We had a lot of damage. We didn’t have any (water) enter through the front doors. It was mostly from the roof. We lost all of our trees.” 

The recovery loan was one part of a much larger effort to get the school up and running on time. According to Malatesta, “A local lawn company donated all new trees, so we have those in and planted. Parent volunteers were able to help with the dry wall, and we were able to get the owner to help with the issues with the roof.”

Building Hope’s recovery loan fund is a creative application of an existing program. The federal Credit Enhancement program is traditionally used for much larger and more long-term financing needs. Facilities partners, like Building Hope, compete for grants from the CSP. They use those funds to leverage additional money from traditional lenders through various mechanisms that help charter schools negotiate more affordable loans and other financing strategies that reduce their overall facilities costs.

Since its inception, the Credit Enhancement program has awarded 48 grants, and Credit Enhancement awardees have worked with nearly a thousand charter schools to secure favorable financing. The Credit Enhancement program is expanding. ED recently announced $56.25 million in new Credit Enhancement grants to eight recipients through the program. The awardees work in various states, and provide a range of services.

Charter School Recovery Fund

Purpose

To help Florida’s charter schools repair, reopen, and restore educational services as quickly as possible

Operated by

Building Hope

Source of Initial Funds

U.S. Department of Education’s Charter Schools Program Credit Enhancement for Charter School Facilities Program

Expected Award Amount

$20,000 to $25,000 (larger amounts available depending on need)

Process

Streamlined (with awards in five days)

 

School Oak Creek Charter School of Bonita Springs (Oak Creek)
Number of Seats 449
Percentage of Free/Reduced Lunch 79%
Grades K-8
Charter Management Organization FORZA Education Management 

 

New NCSRC Report Finds Albuquerque Charter Schools Face Significant Facilities Challenges

A new survey finds that Albuquerque public charter schools face significant challenges in securing and paying for adequate facilities. In 2016, the National Charter School Resource Center (NCSRC), the Colorado League of Charter Schools, the New Mexico Coalition for Charter Schools, and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools collaborated to collect data about charter school facilities and facility expenditures in Albuquerque for a national project. The Albuquerque study is the latest in a series of facilities reports the NCSRC has created on states across the country. The larger set of studies can be seen here.

The team identified 50 brick and mortar Albuquerque charter school facilities that were eligible to participate in this project. Seventy-eight percent of eligible charter school facilities (39 out of 50) completed the Charter School Facilities Survey. The report found that charter schools lack access to long-term facilities’ needs. Seventy-seven percent of charter schools were housed in facilities that were not designed to serve as schools, presenting challenges related to zoning, land use, and permits, among others. Sixty-two percent of charter schools did not have space for their projected enrollment in five years. Only 51 percent of charter schools reported that their facility had the ideal amenities and desired specialized classrooms to best implement their educational programs.

NCSRC Resources

  • Charter School Discipline Toolkit: A Toolkit for Charter School Leaders: This is a toolkit on ways that school leaders can rethink student discipline and school climate. The five enabling factors in the planning and implementation of discipline reform include: 1) defining the scope of change, 2) creating a vision, 3) driving commitment to change, 4) revising policies and procedures, and 5) sustaining change. Each section of the toolkit includes links to resources that can assist schools in implementation.
  • Webinar: Charter Schools and Food Services: Options, Planning, and Decision-Making: This webinar helps charter schools understand the options and alternatives involved at different stages of food service planning and decision-making. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service office shared federal resources available to charter schools. CharterChoice Collaborative School Food Authority explained how they provide individual charter schools with more efficient access to food service options, and KIPP Director of Nutrition gave insight on decision making options involved in establishing food service operations.
  • Toolkit: English Learner Resources: As public schools, charter schools have an obligation to serve English Leaners (EL). As self-governing, mission-oriented, and nimble schools, charter schools have a corresponding opportunity to provide innovative, student-centered opportunities to meet those obligations. This compilation draws from key stakeholders and leaders in the sector, including federal, state, and local agencies, nonprofit organizations, and research agencies that have developed resources specifically to aid charter schools in the important efforts they take to serve EL students. Other resources provide data to explain how well and to what extent charters serve those students.
  • Webinar: Early Childhood Learning in Charter Schools: Early Learning programs have emerged as an intervention to the historical and pervasive gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students. This webinar explores early learning charter school programs from the perspective of federal, state, and local frameworks.
  • Harvesting Success: Charter Schools in Rural America: While urban charter schools are achieving impressive gains, can charter schools improve outcomes for rural America? This topic is an important one with more than 11 million students attending rural schools and facing lower college enrollment than their urban peers. This paper is intended for use by both rural charter schools and networks looking to expand into rural areas.

Recent NCSRC Partner Resources

  • ‘SchoolBuild: From Idea to Construction’ Goes Live: SchoolBuild is a one-stop shop for guidance and information about developing facilities for charter schools. The project is led by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and involves a large group of collaborations. The resource is a research portal intended to smooth the path for school leaders embarking on a real estate project, increase schools’ access to the capital markets, provide relevant sector data that’s updated in real time, and ultimately lower schools’ cost of capital by promoting transparency and competition among vendors.
  • A Growing Movement: America’s Largest Public Charter School Communities: More than 200 school districts in America now have 10 percent or more of their students in charter schools. Over the past 12 years, public charter school enrollment has tripled in response to the growing demands for high-quality public-school options. The latest version of this annual report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) reports that charter schools currently serve more than 3 million students, and there are now more than 200 school districts where 10 percent or more of their public-school students attend charter schools.
  • Charter School Performance in New York: The Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) released a report on charter schools in New York state. The report contains many key findings, including a significant and positive effect on learning in charters compared to traditional public schools. The study also reports that students attending charter schools affiliated with a Charter Management Organization (CMO) have better learning gains than their district school peers in both reading and math. The positive impact is equivalent to about 57 more days of learning in reading and 103 more days in math.
  • Partnership Schools: New Governance Models for Creating Quality School Options in Districts: The Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) released a study on innovative governance strategies now being implemented in at least 10 U.S. cities. A new Partnership Schools model is emerging. These schools are not charter schools, but receive some freedom to operate like a charter while they are legally operating under contracts as district schools. This “third way” governance strategy can break through contentious district-charter divides and could help improve struggling schools or increase the number of high-quality neighborhood options.

Events