- The Walton Family Foundation, through it's Building Equity Initiative, has spent $185 million over three years to renovate charter facilities, according to a report released Monday by the foundation, and that number is expected to reach $200 million by mid-2020.
- The foundation also said it expects $264 million to be available in the form of loans for small and emerging charters in high-needs communities to construct, acquire or renovate facilities.
- In addition, the foundation announced 26 recipients of its Spark Opportunity Grant Program, 10 of which are located in Opportunity Zones created by Congress in 2017. The first round of grants are expected to create 20,000 additional seats for public charter students. The foundation also opened a second round of grants for the program.
According to a recent report by the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of charters has increased from 2% of all public schools in 2000 to 7% in 2016, and the enrollment of public school students in charter schools has increased from 1% to 6% over that same time period.
While some data shows that charter growth is slowing, ready access to facilities has always been a challenge. According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, about 40% of charters don't have the facilities needed to fully implement their educational model, and facility access remains "one of the biggest barriers" to charter growth and a primary concern among charter school leaders. Many charter facilities also lack amenities including gyms, libraries and science labs.
Co-location with traditional district schools is a strategy in some cities, such as Los Angeles, but those arrangements can also be particularly challenging in a competitive school choice environment.
Though left-leaning national leaders (including some leading Democratic presidential candidates) are moving away from ed reform agendas and calling for limited charter growth — and some states are calling for stricter charter laws — the financial future of charters in 2020 still shows "clear skies for now," according to an outlook report by S&P Global. Finance opportunities and options for charters, the company reported, are actually growing as federal support for school choice remains strong, per-pupil funding is generally "stable-to-growing," and demand continues to grow.