Today the Colorado League of Charter School released a report on charter school facilities titled, "Shortchanged Charters: How Funding Disparities Hurt Colorado's Charter Schools." The report provides information garnered from 64 charter schools, including this information:
* Charter schools are forced to spend operating funds on their facilities.
* Every year tens of thousands of Colorado students are denied a seat in a charter school because of a lack of available space.
* Most charter schools have limited capacity to serve federally-subsidized meals for students from lower-income families.
* Charter school facilities are too small.
* Physical education and recreational options are limited for charter school students.
* State grant funding for public school facilities has provided little benefit for charters.
* Local bond elections are not a reliable source of funding for charter school facilities.
Facilities, and their cost, have been the prime issue for charter schools almost since their inception in 1993. For the handful of charter schools that have a "regular" public school-type facility, we joke about it "not looking like a charter school." Most charter schools are in warehouses, supermarkets, strip malls and even greenhouses. Almost everyone agrees charter school facilities are substandard and yet the responses to this fact are quite varied. Parents and charter school leaders tend to say their facility is adequate even though students have to play in an alley or the only place for students to eat lunch is at their desk. On the other hand, I've heard legislators, during committee hearings state that "charter school founders said they could do it cheaper," seemingly suggesting that it's OK for one class of Colorado's public school students to have substandard facilities.
Over the next week or two I'll write a series of blog entries on charter school facilities and the findings in this report.