School Choice & Charters

Walton Foundation Pledges $250 Million for Charter School Facilities

By Arianna Prothero — June 28, 2016 1 min read
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The Walton Family Foundation—one of the most influential backers of charter schools—has announced plans to spend $250 million to help charter schools buy or renovate school buildings.

Many state charter laws do not provide money for facilities, and charters often get less per-pupil funding from their state and don’t have the power to levy taxes to pay for school buildings.

All that makes procuring adequate facilities one of the major perennial issues for charter schools. And it’s why you’ll see charter schools operating out of strip malls or sharing space with district schools in their buildings, arrangements which are often not very harmonious.

Now the Walton Foundation is creating an initiative to help charters get financing to build or expand their facilities through low-interest loans and access to experts in real estate and finance.

(The Walton Family Foundation provides grant support for Education Week’s coverage of school choice and parent-empowerment issues.)

The foundation has identified facilities as one of the biggest barriers to expanding charter schools nationally, and by 2027 it hopes to have created 250,000 new charter school seats.

The Building Equity Initiative will start by focusing on charter schools in high-need urban areas in 17 cities: Atlanta; Boston; Camden, New Jersey; Denver; Houston; Indianapolis; Kansas City, Missouri; Little Rock, Arkansas; Los Angeles; Memphis, Tennessee; New Orleans; New York; Oakland, California; Oklahoma City; San Antonio; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Washington, D.C.

The facilities initiative is in addition to the $1 billion the foundation announced in January it plans to invest in the charter sector over the next five years.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.