A new survey finds that Albuquerque public charter schools face significant challenges in securing and paying for adequate facilities. The report, “An Analysis of the Charter School Facility Landscape in Albuquerque,” is part of a larger national project, the Charter School Facilities Initiative (CSFI), which aims to encourage public policy and private sector changes leading to a comprehensive, sustainable, and adequate public school facilities system.
Unlike individual district public schools, public charter schools are typically responsible for obtaining and paying for their own facilities. As a result, charter schools are often located in nontraditional spaces, such as office buildings, churches, strip malls, and former big box stores. In the 2015-16 school year, 77 percent of Albuquerque charter schools were in facilities that were not originally designed to be a school—and locating in a nontraditional school facility often comes with significant challenges. These challenges include navigating zoning, land use, and permitting processes—as well as funding major capital improvement projects to make these spaces school ready. In fact, only 51 percent of Albuquerque charter schools reported that their facility had the ideal amenities and desired specialized classrooms to best implement their educational program.
In 2015-16, New Mexico charter schools received $736 per pupil in lease reimbursement assistance. However, Albuquerque’s public charter schools spent an additional $352 per pupil on facilities costs (which includes lease payments and/or financing payments) and this spending varied across different ownership situations.
“We know that access to affordable and adequate facilities is a critical issue for charter school operators and the continued growth and health of our movement,” said Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “The lack of affordable and adequate facilities limits the growth of high-performing operators, limits the ability of new and innovative charter schools to open, diverts critical funds away from the classroom, and limits programming options for charter school students.”
Additional findings from the Albuquerque report include:
- Meeting demand for Albuquerque’s charter schools will require new facilities solutions.
- Many Albuquerque charter schools do without important amenities.
- Serving meals can be a challenge for many Albuquerque charter schools due to lack of full-preparatory kitchen facilities and/or lunch rooms.
- Physical education and recreational options may be limited for Albuquerque charter school students due to lack of gymnasiums and athletic fields.
- Prior to their first year in operation, 33 percent of Albuquerque charter schools had to delay their opening date due to facilities-related issues such as financing, acquisition of property or land, construction, or a lack of available facilities in the desired area.
- Sixty-two (62) percent of Albuquerque charter schools did not have space for their projected enrollment in five years.
“Charter schools in New Mexico are attracting students and families because of their quality and unique instruction,” said Matt Pahl, executive director at the New Mexico Coalition for Charter Schools (NMCCS). “But current facilities do not allow our best charter schools to serve the many students that want to enroll. The information in this report can be instrumental in finding equitable solutions to this problem.”
In the spring of 2016, the National Charter School Resource Center, the Colorado League of Charter Schools, NMCCS, and the National Alliance collaborated to collect data and information about charter school facilities and facilities expenditures in the city of Albuquerque. The CSFI team collected data on Albuquerque charter schools and those schools are the focus of this report. However, all of New Mexico’s charter schools face similar challenges related to facility acquisition and expenditures.
Additional information about the Charter School Facilities Initiative is available at www.facilitiesinitiative.org.
About Public Charter Schools
Public charter schools are independent, public, and tuition-free schools that are given the freedom to be more innovative while being held accountable for advancing student achievement. Since 2010, many research studies have found that students in charter schools do better in school than their traditional school peers. For example, one study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University found that charter schools do a better job teaching low income students, minority students, and students who are still learning English than traditional schools. Separate studies by the Center on Reinventing Public Education and Mathematica Policy Research have found that charter school students are more likely to graduate from high school, go on to college, stay in college and have higher earnings in early adulthood.
About the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is the leading national nonprofit organization committed to advancing the public charter school movement. Our mission is to lead public education to unprecedented levels of academic achievement by fostering a strong charter sector. For more information, please visit www.publiccharters.org.