October 31, 2013
The fall is always an exciting time of year as teachers and students return to classes. We can think of little that is more exciting that the very first day of school at a brand-new charter school - the realization of so many years of hard work. This fall, 104 new charter schools opened their doors and we hit a movement milestone as there are now more than 500K students enrolled in California charter schools.
Think about that phrase - "opening your doors." When a school finds a facility - its own home - that is when it feels like a dream has been realized. One of the biggest challenges that new charter schools face of course is securing adequate facilities. November 1 was the deadline for schools to submit Proposition 39 applications and we are excited to say that CCSA's Legal Team has helped with pro bono Prop. 39 application reviews for more than 80 schools.
This is incredibly important as I have seen first-hand how Prop. 39 makes a difference for schools in the many visits to schools I have made this fall.
Sycamore Academy in Visalia opened last year in a Prop. 39 co-location. This year, they moved into their very own campus after Visalia Unified made improvements to one of its closed school sites to create a long-term facility for Sycamore. In Los Angeles, I met with Michelle Jasso and Ted Morris of Endeavor, whose schools are housed in three different and successful co-locations in Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). I saw Frances Teso at Voices Charter School with their very positive Prop. 39 partnership with Franklin-McKinley School District in San Jose.
And I've connected with various school developers opening schools next year, including Ken Montgomery working on the Design Tech Charter School in San Mateo. When I hear about their exciting plans for new schools, I'm all the more committed to making sure that charter schools have access to the facilities they need to literally "open their doors."
Meanwhile, on another facilities front, we continue to be very encouraged by the transition of the SB 740 program from the California Department of Education to the California School Finance Authority (CSFA). CSFA has reported that they have completed sending out award notices to 2013-14 applicants that met the application deadline and expect to have the backlog completed for 2012-13 by early November. Schools should keep an eye out for their check! One school has already reported that these funds will have a huge benefit to their cash flow because they were not expecting to see any money until next spring! A big thank you to the CSFA team for getting up to speed so quickly and getting these critical facility funds flowing.
All this speaks to making sure that we advocate effectively so that we can get the flexibility and the funding levels needed to make a big difference for charter schools. Of course, the only way we can advocate effectively for charter school facilities is if we have the data about charter schools' current facilities situation. That is why we are so delighted that the U.S. Department of Education has proposed funding a survey of California charter school facilities for the 2013-14 school year. But that's just half of the equation - we're going to need all of you to respond. So please keep an eye out for updates on this critical initiative from our facilities team and help provide us with the information we need to advocate on your behalf.
Forge on. We are very excited by your progress and the tremendous momentum of the charter school movement in California and the Association is more committed than ever to seeing you have every support you need to run a successful school.
President and CEO
California Charter Schools Association