As parents head to the polls, often inside schools, I want you to remember this physical location is something charter schools struggle to secure. That’s because most charter school leaders can’t find funding for the buildings. And I’m talking about public schools here.
Taxpayers own public school buildings, which should mean they are available to all public school students, but that’s not the case. Access to school buildings is one of the biggest obstacles to expanding charter school options. Charter schools rarely have access to taxpayer-funded facilities, even if those facilities are vacant.
Public charter schools have doubled since the N.C. General Assembly lifted a cap in 2011. Yet, this growing sector of education does not have access to the same affordable financing options as government-supported district schools. We know parents want to send their child to a charter school but don’t have the option. According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ “Never Going Back: An Analysis of Parent Sentiment in Education” survey, 74% of parents would consider sending their child to a public charter school if one were available in their area. And 77% want more charter school options.
This funding issue is one of the biggest reasons parents don’t have that option.
According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, single-site charter schools, those in high-poverty or rural areas, and those with new models are at a significant disadvantage in the facilities financing market — they have to pay much higher interest rates to borrow money. While some charter schools access federal or state programs, these initiatives have limited funding and reach. They don’t work for all charter schools. Moreover, many of these programs simply reduce the cost of borrowing money – schools still need to cover the debt – meaning money that should be going into the classroom is instead paying for the classroom.
I encourage you to visit the NC Association for Public Charter Schools’s website. There you’ll find a questionnaire with candidates’ responses to education issues. Make your vote count in November.
Rhonda Dillingham serves as executive director of the NC Association for Public Charter Schools