TRENTON, N.J. — Finding and affording suitable space has often been a dilemma for charter schools looking to open new facilities or expand.
In New Jersey, officials are easing that pressure by offering $30 million in low-interest, federally subsidized bonds so that charter schools statewide can fund new classrooms and other construction projects, according to a state official.
New Jersey’s Economic Development Authority will look for projects that are construction-ready and award the funds on a competitive basis, says EDA chief executive officer Caren Franzini. Charter schools will have until Nov. 19 to apply for funding.
“This is the first time, to my knowledge, that the state has ever made federal school construction bonds available to help charter schools,” Franzini says. “For the most part, we will be looking for projects that are already under way, with other financing in place, and the loans we will be administering will put the finishing touches on projects so they can move rapidly to conclusion.”
The federal bonds are expected to help New Jersey charter schools leverage nearly 10 times the amount in private sector financing, allowing the schools to deal with their most pressing needs. The state has approximately 72 charters, with another seven expected to come online by next fall, according to news reports.
“Other public schools have always been able to borrow money at a low interest rate to help them meet their facilities needs,” says Rochelle Hendricks, acting education commissioner. “Today, we begin to level the playing field.”