Published Online: November 19, 2003
Published in Print: November 19, 2003, as State Journal

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Charter Aid

Despite strong opposition, some charter schools in California are, for the first time, receiving state money to help build or buy new facilities.

Six charter schools will receive more than $48 million in such aid this month from revenue generated by a statewide school construction bond passed in November of last year.

The charter schools must match the funds provided by the state, whether that means taking out loans from the state or raising the money locally.

Lawmakers debated whether to allow charters to tap into the$13 billion bond before eventually earmarking a total of $100 million for charter school facilities. The money was allotted as part of the bond measure that was approved by the legislature for a statewide ballot, and shortly after a lawsuit brought attention to the plight of charter school facilities.

A charter school in the Sequoia Union High School District won a lawsuit requiring the district it was located within to help pay for a new facility. ("Calif. Suit Seeks Court Resolution to Tiff Over Charter Facility Funds," Aug. 7, 2002.)

Proponents say the aid is vitally important for charters, because the start- up schools often have trouble finding suitable facilities.

"This is very encouraging, but so much more needs to be done in order to assure charter schools are receiving their fair share," said Gary Larson, the spokesman for the California Network of Educational Charters. But, he added, "there is a recognition that charter schools have and deserve fair treatment when it comes to getting classrooms."

State Treasurer Phil Angelides, a charter supporter and possible Democratic gubernatorial candidate in the 2006 election, traveled to Animo Leadership Charter School in Inglewood to announce the awards on Oct. 30.

That school, which offers a college-preparatory program to more than 400 students in grades 9-12, will receive $10 million. The school plans to buy land and build a new facility to accommodate its growing enrollment. Nearly all of the school's students are from immigrant families.

Mr. Angelides said in his speech that such investments in the state's 400-plus charter schools, which are public but largely independent, were needed. "Investments in first-class schools—including public charter schools—will sustain the strength of our economy in the years ahead." In addition to securing matching funds, the California School Financing Authority reviews the charter' applications for grants and finances before the money is handed out.

— L. Sack

Vol. 23, Issue 12, Page 20

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