ABOUT CSFI

About the Charter School Facilities Initiative

Mission

The Charter School Facilities Initiative (CSFI) informs policy and practice by collecting and disseminating comprehensive data regarding the state of charter school facilities, including the cost and quality of charter school buildings, charter school access to school district facilities, and availability of local and state funding for charter school facilities.

The Charter School Facilities Initiative is funded in part by the National Charter School Resource Center.

Goals

  • Support better policy and practice through industry leading data.
  • Create national dataset allowing cross state analysis.
  • Develop state level reports allowing for localized policy changes.
  • Support individual state efforts and serve to build a national database of charter school facility data.
  • Establish nationally reliable figures about key measures related to charter facilities.
  • Cross reference state specific data against National Alliance Model Law sections on facilities to measure the impact various policy measures have on facility costs and adequacy.
  • Cross reference facility quality against student performance data.

How it Began

Charter school laws across the country place the burden of obtaining and paying for facilities on the charter schools themselves. As a result, charter schools often struggle to find suitable and affordable facilities, and charter leaders routinely identify facilities as one of their top challenges of running a school.

In 2007, based on anecdotal reports and considerable time spent across Colorado's charter community, it was clear that inadequate and costly facilities were the norm. Fifteen years into the charter experience, state policy continued to provide an inadequate and inequitable structure for charter school capital needs. In response, the Colorado League of Charter Schools (the League) commissioned a 2010 Task Force to build the case for changes to remove barriers to adequate and equitable access to public school facilities and financing for Colorado charter schools. While the need to improve the landscape of charter school facilities and facilities financing was evident within the charter community, the League understood that anecdotes and hearsay were insufficient to influence policy makers; a key missing piece was reliable data on the condition and cost of charter school facilities. In order to provide reliable data in support of the League's Task Force objectives, the League developed a comprehensive survey, the Charter School Facilities Survey, to gather objective, reliable facilities data from Colorado's charter community.

The League published the results of the Charter School Facilities Survey in a 2008 report entitled "Shortchanged Charters: How Funding Disparities Hurt Colorado's Charter Schools." The Report, and the data the survey revealed, provided the League's Task Force with the necessary information to build its policy framework.

Since then the League has been able to leverage that combination of data and policy to make substantial gains in its facilities efforts. For example, the League was able to successfully obtain more capital construction funds for charter schools, make legislative changes that required school districts to include district authorized charter schools in bond election discussions, and provide for the inclusion of charter schools as eligible applicants in the Colorado Building Excellent Schools Today program, a competitive grant program that provides funding to school districts and charter schools for capital construction projects.

How it Evolved

Seeing the success of the Colorado facilities initiative, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools ("the Alliance") partnered with the League to use the Colorado facilities survey model in other states to assess the charter facilities landscape across the country.

In a pilot program spanning six months in 2010‐11, the League and the Alliance partnered with state charter school organizations (CSOs) in Georgia, Indiana and Texas to collect state‐specific data comparable to what took place in Colorado. Since then, many additional states have joined the project. Click here to see participating states and results.

The results are published in a series of state‐specific reports jointly authored by the League, the Alliance, and respective CSO partners.

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