With 2018 legislative sessions kicking off across the country, many advocates will be working to address charter school equity. One equity issue that can majorly impact the growth of charter schools is facilities access.
In a recently published report, the Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) takes on this issue, and discusses potential changes to facilities access that could make a difference. The report, Opening the Schoolhouse Door, focuses on encouraging traditional district schools to share public facilities with charter schools.
Many states have adopted a “right of first refusal” provision as a part of their charter laws, which requires districts to offer surplus facilities to charter schools before selling or leasing them to other buyers. Some state laws go beyond this requirement by either guaranteeing charter schools “equivalent” facilities or offering incentives for traditional districts to partner with charter schools, but both approaches can have significant challenges. According to the CRPE report, a promising solution would allow an independent trust or partnership group to take ownership of all facilities and allocate them based on need, but this strategy has yet to be tested in any state.
CRPE offers several other suggested solutions to both policymakers and district leaders. Some of these include:
- Offering district schools incentives to provide space to charter schools.
- Establishing clearer legal language on why, when, and how districts should provide facilities space to charter schools.
- Strengthening state oversight of districts’ facilities planning to examine how districts make facilities offers or determine costs charged to charter schools.
- Working to develop processes that fairly allocate facilities space—not just “surplus” space—between district and charter schools.
- Instead of waiting for the state to act, looking to areas where districts and charter schools are taking a collaborative approach and determining if a facilities access solution is possible, perhaps even as part of a larger agreement that addresses more than facilities.
Interested in hearing more from CRPE or want to make a connection on charter facilities issues? Please reach out.