PNC Unveils New Loan Fund for Charter Schools
According to the Wall Street Journal, PNC Bank is creating a new fund to loan money to high-performing public charter schools that are looking to expand. "Facility ownership and ability to expand is crucial to charter schools seeking to grow their enrollment," Greg McKenna, managing director at PNC Capital Markets, said in a press release. The new fund "is a convenient option for schools seeking growth in the near-term but lack the necessary funds to move forward." The fund will target schools with a track record of academic and financial success which need more than $7 million in order to add capacity to an existing facility or buy a new one. The fund will advance up to 80 percent of the value of a school's property.
Source: Wall Street Journal
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The Hunt for Charter Facilities in D.C.
The Washington City Paper explored the difficulties public charter schools face in securing facilities in Washington, D.C., where 41 percent of public school children attend charters. The city has closed 23 district school buildings in recent years; many more are under-enrolled with unused space. Only 17 of D.C.’s 98 public charter schools are in former district school buildings; the rest are in commercial space. The city’s process for leasing space to charters can take two to four years, which makes things unpredictable for charters, which pay for facilities out of their per-pupil funding. “The challenge is, you can’t afford a facility for a school of 450 when you’re 300,” said Martha Cutts, head of the high-performing Washington Latin Public Charter School, which currently operates out of three different churches. The Deputy Mayor for Education’s staff is putting together a plan to allocate space better and offer school buildings to charters faster. Former D.C. Public Charter School Board chair Tom Nida would like to see an independent authority arbitrate the needs of both neighborhoods and schools.
Source: Washington City Paper
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Philadelphia District, Largest Charter Operator Reach Special Education Agreement
According to Newsworks, Philadelphia’s school district and its largest school turnaround operator, Mastery Charter Schools, have reached an agreement to prevent the relocation of 12 severely disabled children from one of the city’s Renaissance charters, which Mastery deputy chief innovation officer Courtney Collins-Shapiro called "a good sign of the District and charters partnering." Mastery had sought to continue to operate two specialized classrooms at Clymer, a school it took over last year as part of the district’s Renaissance initiative; the district will subsidize some of the cost, which can run $50,000 per student, two or three times the state special education per-pupil allocation. The district originally planned to move the students to another school; disabilities rights advocates worried about setting a precedent that appeared to exempt charters from educating the most disabled students. Currently, 18 percent of Mastery’s students have special needs, compared to 14 percent in the district as a whole. "We are trying to put ourselves in a position to be a national model for charter schools serving special education kids," said Collins-Shapiro.
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Op-ed: Charters Spur All Schools to Improve
In a Union-Eagle op-ed, Center for School Change director Joe Nathan addresses the trend in Minnesota of increasing public charter school enrollment and decreasing district school enrollment. Many Minnesota charters are offering a more personalized education; some school districts have responded by offering distinctive programs such as Montessori or language immersion. “At least some of these, such as the Forest Lake Montessori, were opened in response to the possibility that parents and educators would set up a charter if the district did not respond. The charter movement has helped some educators and districts recognize that there is no single perfect kind of school for all students…Enrollment trends suggest that wise educators will look for more effective ways to organize learning and teaching. Students don’t need more district or charter public schools. They need more personalized, excellent public schools.”
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Racial Achievement Gap Dwindling in Michigan's Public Charter Schools
According to Michigan Radio, recent Michigan state test results for students in third grade through eighth grade show black students in public charter schools perform better than those in traditional public schools, by as much as nine percentage points. Dan Quisenberry, president of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, said improving test scores in charter schools narrow the achievement gap between black and white students.“That's a problem that's plagued our country for far too many years and I think some of it is really just getting after the solutions because it's not easy,” Quisenberry said. “When kids come into a charter school, many times they are a grade to as many as three grade levels behind where they should be. Those are not kids that you're cherry picking in some way even if you could. What's happening is you're seeing people focusing on students' needs, and achievement scores are rising as a result of it.”
Source: Michigan Radio
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