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As we prepare for Valentine’s Day, we want to make a date with you—and we explore the on-again, off-again relationships between school districts and public charter schools.

First, we’re happy to announce that the Charter School Facility Center will host its first conference—see below for more information and to register to join us in St. Louis on April 23.

The relationship between school districts and charter schools continues to run hot and cold, with good news in Ohio and not so good news in Indiana and New Jersey. Meanwhile, ExcelinEd proposes a way to measure how much states really like their charter schools. Keep reading to learn more!

The district loves me not:

Charter School Facility Law Under Attack in Indiana

Three School Districts Jointly Sue the State to Stop “$1 Law”

Three school districts are challenging a 2011 Indiana law that requires all districts in the state to sell unused school buildings to an eligible charter school for just a dollar. Indiana school districts are required to file a notice with the state within 10 days of a decision to close a school. Charter schools then have 30 days to file a request to buy or lease the facility. The law was intended to help Indiana charter schools with their facility needs, by making unneeded and unused school buildings available to them virtually for free.

West Lafayette School District initially filed the suit to “protect” Happy Hollow Elementary School, which closed in 2018, even though no charter school had filed to buy it for $1 before the deadline. It’s currently being used as a temporary city hall. Then two other districts—Lake Ridge School Corp. and School City of Hammond—filed nearly identical lawsuits. Amongst the three districts, there are seven school buildings that are or soon will be empty, but the cities want to sell them for value or repurpose them. All three actions will be jointly heard in Indiana’s Lake County Court. The state says it will vigorously defend its interest in giving the facilities to charter schools.

The district loves me:

Praise for Selling Shuttered Schools to Charter Schools in Ohio

The Columbus Dispatch Editorial Board is praising the Columbus Board of Education for agreeing to sell 5 closed school buildings. “Selling vacant school buildings generally is good policy; money going to maintain them can instead be spent in the classroom or go into improvements at other schools. Often, an even better benefit ensues: Other organizations, such as charter schools. . . get a chance at a building for a good price and neighborhoods get a revitalizing boost.”

Ohio law mandates that charter schools get first crack at any buildings being sold by school districts. During the first 60 days, the first charter school to offer to pay the appraised value can buy it for that price. The buildings are:

  • Beck Elementary, appraised at $1.67 million
  • Douglas Alternative Elementary School, appraised at $1.55 million
  • Starling Middle School, appraised at $1.23 million
  • Clearbrook Middle School, appraised at $1.05 million
  • Stockbridge Elementary School, appraised at $340,000

We agree with the Dispatch: “It’s a fair and sensible way to help quality charter schools gain the stability that owning their own building can bring.”

The district loves me not:

The Unpredictability of Co-Location

Newark Superintendent Seeks to Upend Students by Kicking Charter School Out of Leased District Space

Newark Superintendent Roger León seeks to kick the school out of the space it has occupied since 2011. People Prep is a small charter high school that is co-located inside of the former Camden Middle School. León claims Peoples Prep’s presence is preventing Bard Early College Magnet High School from expanding. Peoples Prep lawyer notes that the school has higher graduation rates and serves a larger population of special education students than Newark Public Schools. León is also urging the state to deny charter renewals to four charter schools and is talking about “taking back” 12 schools the previous administration sold between 2016-2018.

District Update

D.C. Mayor Leases Shuttered Elementary School to KIPP—Finally!

Ferebee-Hope’s Upcoming $90 Million Makeover is a Win-Win for the Community

Persistence has paid off for KIPP, and for Washington D.C. families living in Wards 7 and 8. Last week they won their long battle to put a stand-alone charter high school on the site of the old Ferebee-Hope elementary school, which closed in 2013. Under federal law, D.C. charter schools have first rights to unused district facilities. But this is the first time in her five-year tenure that D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has released an unused facility to a charter school operator.

KIPP will bulldoze the old building and spend $90 million building a new “first of its kind community campus,” based on public-private partnerships. Along with a new school, KIPP will build, and the D.C. Parks and Recreation will operate, a new recreation center on the campus, complete with an indoor pool and a boxing gym.  MedStar Georgetown University Hospital Department of Psychiatry will provide mental-health clinics for neighborhood residents. The city says a job-training program will also open on Ferebee-Hope’s grounds. KIPP’s plan even includes a partnership with the Washington Nationals Team for a Youth Baseball Academy.

KIPP plans to raise $40 million in donations and will fund the remaining $50 million. At capacity, the school will serve 800 students beginning in the 2021-2022 school year.

Partner Resources

How to Measure Whether Your State is Meeting Its Charter Schools’ Facilities Needs?

What does the “space” space look like in 5 Years?

Accessing affordable facilities is one of the most critical issues facing charter schools everywhere. While state policymakers authorize charter schools, no state provides enough funding or free facilities to ensure that charter schools have the space they need.

Now, ExcelinEd has released a new tool, the “Charter School Facilities Index,” that can be used to give a very clear numerical picture of any state’s charter school facilities and funding shortfall.  Using easy-to-understand math, the index instructs how to calculate the need now and, using a conservative growth metric, five years in the future. The tool computes need by students, schools and costs. Step two calculates how well the state is meeting the current need and the projected five-year-in-the-future need as it relates to funding, facilities and financing.

ExcelinEd’s Index gives charter school advocates the quantitative data they need to push policymakers to provide more equitable access and funding-and to show them how much bigger the problem will be in five short years, unless policy changes are part of the conversation now.

Donor Focus

Walton’s Building Equity Initiative to Spend $200 Million by mid-2020

The Walton Family Foundation is leading the way in helping charter schools with their facility challenges. Walton's Building Equity Initiative has already spent $185M over the past three years to renovate charter facilities. It expects another $264M to be available in the form of loans for small and emerging charters in high-needs communities to construct, acquire or renovate facilities. According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, about 40 percent of charter schools don't have the facilities needed to fully implement their educational model, facility access remains "one of the biggest barriers" to charter growth, and this is a primary concern among charter school leaders. Kudos to the Walton Family Foundation for its generous support in this critical area of need.


Will You Help Set the Course for the Next Generation of Charter School Facilities?

Please save the date to participate in the first annual Facilities, Real Estate, and Development (FRED) conference on Thursday, April 23, 2020, in St. Louis. This conference will be hosted alongside the Alliance of Public Charter School Attorneys’ bi-annual meeting and will kick off with a joint welcome reception on the evening of April 22.

Facility solutions are critical to recharge the growth of charter schools by resolving one of the biggest barriers to charter school expansion. We look forward to hosting facility stakeholders and experts from around the country to share what is working in their cities and states. Our goal is to help spread successful systemic practices across the nation. Your attendance, your voice, and your stories of success are needed more than ever. Come help us set the course for the next generation of facility programs and policies.

Registration details will be shared soon. If you are interested in recommending a topic and/or leading a workshop, or would like more information on sponsorship opportunities, please contact We hope to see you in St. Louis on April 23!

The Charter School Facility Center is an initiative of the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools to create a more equitable landscape for charter school facilities through innovative solutions, improved policies, and building local capacity by training charter school operators. We thank the U.S. Department of Education for initial funding for this effort. For more information, please visit our website or email us at