The Walton Family Foundation has announced a $250 million initiative to help charter schools across the nation create and expand facilities.
The foundation, founded by Walmart founder Sam Walton and his wife, Helen, says it is creating the Building Equity Initiative because only one in three states that allow charter schools provide public funding for facilities. In addition, opportunities to share space with district schools are limited in most cities.
The initiative will focus on high-need urban areas in 17 cities. Its goal is to enable charter schools to serve an additional 250,000 students by 2027. The foundation says that 600,000 students are on waiting lists to attend public charter schools.
“Before opening their doors, charter schools must find suitable and affordable spaces where teachers can teach and children can learn," says Marc Sternberg, director of the Walton Family Foundation’s K-12 Education Program. "In many cities, this is the biggest barrier to creating high-quality educational options for children and families. The Building Equity Initiative intends to level the capital and policy barriers that prevent charter schools from growing to meet demand from families and communities.”
The Building Equity Initiative intends to provide low-interest loans to not-for-profit lenders, who will help finance facilities for high-quality charter schools. It also will create a network of resources – real estate experts, lenders, financiers, technical assistance providers – that charter schools can use when finding and securing facilities.
Charter schools often struggle to acquire the funds needed to secure, build or renovate facilities because traditional lenders see them as unproven investments. The initiative hopes to make it easier for charter schools to secure additional financing, and to persuade government and private lenders to establish more equitable policies. The foundation will partner with Civic Builders, a nonprofit charter facilities developer, to manage the Building Equity Initiative.
The Walton Family Foundation has a history of support for charter school facilities. Since 2003, it says, it has given $116 million to help high-quality charter schools acquire facilities.