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By 2027, the Building Equity Initiative will enable charter schools to serve an additional 250,000 students.

A long-standing challenge for public charter schools

Public charter school leaders are responsible for educating their students and for securing building space for their schools. Historically, it has been challenging for charter schools to access the capital they need to serve their communities. In June 2016, the Walton Family Foundation announced the $250 million Building Equity Initiative, (“BEI”) a first-of-its-kind nonprofit effort to provide charter schools with access to capital to create and expand facilities.

The Building Equity Initiative will increase the capacity of existing organizations so they can serve more students. The initiative endeavors to do so by providing low-interest capital at an increased scale. Further, the initiative invests to create new nonprofit organizations supporting charters with facility needs. The goal is to create a bigger network of resources – real estate experts, lenders, financiers, technical assistance providers and more – that charter schools can utilize when selecting facilities. This will make it quicker and easier for schools to secure the spaces that they need to serve their students.

The foundation is partnering with the nonprofit Civic Builders to manage the initiative. Civic Builders has a long track record of successfully securing and financing charter school facilities, enabling thousands of students to attend the charter school of their choice.

Investment Approach

The Building Equity Initiative is the largest philanthropic effort of this size to address the systemic challenges that charter schools face when finding and securing facilities. The BEI will both help individual schools grow to meet demand and identify opportunities to improve policy and financial market conditions related to charter school facilities.

Not a one-size-fits-all effort, the BEI adapts regionally with support from local education nonprofits, and nationally with support from education and charter school financing experts.

Comprehensive City-wide Strategies

The BEI works with leading city education nonprofits to design customized strategies to help alleviate the facilities challenge for charter schools. These efforts can look dramatically different based on the city. For example, in some cities, local nonprofits could use BEI resources to build a school incubator, which would house multiple new schools while they grow to full student enrollment. In others, BEI resources could be used to support advocacy efforts geared at increasing access to unused public space or public funding for charter schools.

To start, the BEI is prioritizing the following 17 cities:

Atlanta, Boston, Camden, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Little Rock, Los Angeles, Memphis, New Orleans, New York, Oakland, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Tulsa, Washington, D.C.

Improving the National Landscape

Charter schools also face significant challenges in accessing public and private resources for facilities. While each local real estate market poses a unique set of circumstances, the resource challenge is experienced nationally. The BEI invests in initiatives that provide solutions to the high barriers to accessing charter facilities. BEI-supported initiatives may employ many different innovative methods, including those which lower the cost of capital, and improve the amount and use of government subsidies.

Proposals

The BEI is committed to awarding capital that will both help individual schools grow to meet demand, and improve policy conditions related to charter school facilities.

The BEI does not accept unsolicited grant proposals. An organization interested in applying for funding needs first to send a brief letter of inquiry. The letter should succinctly describe the organization and the proposed project, specify and briefly explain its relevance to the initiative, and provide an estimate of the funds that would be requested.

All letters of inquiry should be addressed to BEI@civicbuilders.org.

How will the Building Equity Initiative work for existing facility developers and lenders?
The initiative will increase the capacity of existing organizations so they can serve more students. The initiative will endeavor to do so by providing low-interest capital at an increased scale. Further, the initiative will invest to create new nonprofit organizations supporting charters with facility needs. The goal is to create a bigger network of resources – real estate experts, lenders, financiers, technical assistance providers and more – that charter schools can utilize when selecting facilities. This will make it quicker and easier for schools to secure spaces they need to serve their students.

How will the Building Equity Initiative work for city-based nonprofits?
In select cities across the nation, the BEI will work with leading city education nonprofits to design customized strategies to help alleviate the facilities challenge for charter schools. These efforts will look dramatically different based on the city. For example, in some cities, local nonprofits could use initiative resources to build a school incubator, which would house multiple new schools while they grow to full student enrollment.

How will the Building Equity Initiative work for schools?
The BEI will work with nonprofit facilities intermediaries to support place-based facilities solutions. The BEI will not fund schools directly, instead local nonprofit intermediaries will be eligible for financing. These nonprofits will, in turn, make funding available to high quality schools in the initiative’s 17 cities.

The initiative’s strategy and approach will look very different based on local context. In some cities, for example, BEI resources could be used to construct new buildings or renovate older facilities, which will then be leased to charter schools.

What charter schools are eligible for Building Equity Initiative funding?
To start, the BEI will prioritize the 17 cities where its funding partner, the Walton Family Foundation, already makes grants to fund great schools. In these cities, initiative funding will be allocated to schools through intermediary organizations, such as nonprofit lenders and developers or local education nonprofits. Qualifications to receive initiative funding will be established in partnership with these national and local nonprofits.

Learn more about the charter facilities landscape and potential partners here

 

Funding Partner

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