This week, the New Jersey Charter Schools Association and JerseyCAN published the report Include All Public Schools in Facilities Funding: $900 Million Needed to Address Overcrowding and Safety in Public Charter and Renaissance Schools.
The report includes the results from a school needs assessment survey that was administered to New Jersey’s 91 public charter and renaissance schools regarding current and future facilities needs and challenges.
The survey found that public charter and renaissance schools will need more than $900 million over the next decade to serve existing students and meet future enrollment demand. These schools estimate the need for more than 200 school construction or substantial renovation projects in the next decade to provide safe and secure school buildings for the families that they serve.
The report also provides key information that will help policymakers understand the current educational landscape in our cities, as well as new data and estimates on the school facilities needs for public charter and renaissance schools. For example, of the $900 million needed over the next decade to serve existing students and meet future enrollment demand, the unfunded facilities needs for public charter and renaissance schools in the state’s largest six School Development Authority (SDA) districts — Newark, Camden, Paterson, Jersey City, Trenton, and Plainfield — totals $820 million.
In addition, the report includes policy changes that must be made to allow public charter and renaissance schools to access and use state school construction funding for new construction. Charters currently can only use state funds for rehabilitation and expansion, but not for wholly new construction. The prohibition on charters’ use of state funds for new construction must be lifted, and similar policy changes are needed for renaissance schools. For example, policymakers need to strike a current provision which requires that renaissance schools be constructed solely at the expense of the nonprofit entities that run them.
Additional findings from the survey include:
- $942 million will be required to fund public charter and renaissance school construction, renovation, and capital improvement needs in the next decade with $687 million estimated for new construction and $255 million estimated for renovation, maintenance, and capital improvements.
- More than 200 new construction or substantial renovation projects will be needed over the next 10 years for charter and renaissance schools to provide safe and secure school environments for their students.
- The biggest facilities challenges faced by charter and renaissance schools are overcrowding, needs for repairs or upgrades, building safety improvements, and locating adequate buildings.
- 85% of survey respondents indicated that they plan to initiate at least one new school construction or substantial renovation project in the next 10 years with 46% of respondent schools estimating the need for more than one project.
- 82% of charter and renaissance schools indicate that their education programs currently suffer due to the lack of facilities funding of any kind.
- Public charter and renaissance schools statewide currently spend more than $120 million annually on rent/lease, mortgage and maintenance costs, 14% of total charter school state aid
- $86.9 million ($1,547 per-pupil) is spent on mortgage and lease payments, 10% of total statewide charter school funding.
- $33.7 million is spent (approx. $195,000 per building) on annual maintenance of school facilities, 4% of total statewide charter school funding.