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July 15, 2021
NO NEED FOR INSOMNIA IN NORTH CAROLINA
Public Charter School Enrollment Soars
North Carolina charter school bond investors having nightmares that COVID would take a toll on charter school enrollment should relax. The School Improvement Partnership (SIP) Database confirms an enrollment increase in 130 of the state’s 170 public charter schools, for a 10.8 percent total increase from 2018 through 2020. That increase equals 10,000 new students! A more detailed review of North Carolina charter school borrowers where SIP serves as Continuing Disclosure Agent reveals that North Carolina's positive enrollment trend has continued into 2021.
 
What contributed to the enrollment increase for North Carolina charter schools and charter school borrowers? One factor is that the Governor kept all district public schools closed until October 2020, while charter schools could exercise their own discretion -provided they met state health guidelines. Second, many charter schools provided laptops and internet hotspots to students to facilitate distance learning. For example, according to its voluntary Electronic Municipal Market Access (EMMA) filing prepared with assistance from SIP, Coastal Preparatory Academy gave out laptops to 300 of its 539 students during the shift to remote learning. A third factor supporting the enrollment growth: strong student and teacher retention. According to its voluntary EMMA filing, Research Triangle Charter High School retained 100 percent of its students for the start of the 2020 school year – and all of its teachers.
 
For many charter schools across the country that access the bond markets, SIP serves as Continuing Disclosure Agent, producing the periodic reports required by investors to keep them apprised of a charter school borrower’s financial, academic and operating progress. SIP’s charter school Database includes, but is not limited to, metrics as enrollment, academic performance, percentage of economically disadvantaged students and the charter expiration date for all 170 campuses in the state. High-yield charter school bond investors with charter school investments outside of North Carolina will find that a subscription to the SIP database will stave off sleepless nights. Sign up for a free two-week trial here.
                     
IMPROVED ACCESS IS A NEW REALITY IN ARIZONA

Budget Ends a Variety of School Choice Obstacles for Parents
Arizona’s newly adopted budget includes two key provisions geared toward expanding access to schools of choice for the state’s K-12 students. A $10 million allocation will establish transportation grants that public charter schools and other community groups can use to help students attend a school that they may have been precluded from choosing because of transportation challenges. Governor Ducey applauded legislators for removing one of the greatest barriers to school choice, noting that “a choice is only a choice if you can get there, and unfortunately, those with the greatest hurdles to getting there are in our low-income neighborhoods.”
 
The budget also makes school districts’ open-enrollment systems more transparent. Arizona’s current open enrollment policy, which has existed for decades, allows students to attend public schools other than the campus for which they are zoned. But public charter school advocates have complained that some districts discourage the use of open-enrollment school choice by shielding information about enrollment windows or by creating opaque paperwork requirements. The new budget seeks to end these exclusionary policies that cause hardships for parents. redefinED Staff, Arizona State Budget Expands Student Access to New Educational Options, redefined.com, July 9, 2021
SOUTH CAROLINA'S CHARTER SCHOOL LAW ON THE DOCKET
Bipartisan Coalition of Lawmakers Pounce on Reforms
In the wake of a sweeping report by an ad hoc House committee and a 92-page audit, a bipartisan coalition of South Carolina lawmakers are spending the summer and fall crafting legislation to substantially revise the Palmetto state’s 25-year-old law that regulates about 60 public charter schools. Lawmakers say they will introduce the bill in January, when the 2022 legislative session commences. They also plan to rectify other audit findings, including a lack of clarity in the law for closing underperforming schools and inconsistent accountability measures between schools. They will also seek increased monitoring of local charter boards, stronger administrative fee policies and increased transparency around administrative costs, annual reports, and board minutes.
 
At the same time the legislature seeks to increase public charter school accountability, it doubled the number of charter school authorizers in the state. Limestone University in Gaffney and Coastal Carolina University in Conway are now empowered to authorize public charter schools in South Carolina. Limestone is a private Christian school, as is Erskine College; Coastal Carolina is a public institution. Andy Brack, Big Story: Lawmakers Plan to Revise State Charter School Law, Statehouse Report, July 2, 2021
                                 
BEGINNING OF A POSITIVE TREND?

Virtual Charter School Goes Bricks-n-Mortar in Pennsylvania
The vacant Erie Business Center on West 9th Street will be getting transformed into an online charter school. In June, Harrisburg-based Commonwealth Charter Academy (CCA) purchased the building for $600,000. They will turn it into a public, online K-12th grade "family service center." Students can meet with counselors and teachers and get tutoring assistance. “The whole focus is having a footprint in a community where we have students enrolled and families sometimes need in-person services.” said Tim Eller, Senior V.P. of Outreach at CCA. CCA is in the early stages of planning renovations. The goal is to be up and running by fall of 2022. Staff, Online Charter School Expanding to Vacant Erie Business Center Building, YourErie.com, July 8, 2021
     
PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOLS' POPULARITY STRONG IN NYC

Amplifying Low-Income Families' Voices
Public charter schools are capped in New York, and the waitlists are long in New York City. However, 61 percent of New York City’s Democratic voters want to see more charter schools open — including almost 44 percent whose households include at least one public school teacher! This is significant as teachers unions traditionally donate to Democratic candidates, and New York’s Democratic state lawmakers are responsible for the state’s ongoing charter school cap.

According to a poll of 1,000 Democratic voters taken at the conclusion of the city’s recent mayoral election, support for the creation of more charter schools is strongest at the lowest end of the income scale. Respondents with annual incomes of less than $20,000 voiced approval at a rate of 82.3 percent, with 71 percent saying they “strongly” approved. Support dipped from 72.7 percent among those earning $20,000 to $40,000 to 46.8 percent among those with incomes of $150,000 to $200,000.

Meanwhile, four K-8 charter schools that planned to open a shared high school in New York City were rejected Monday by the state Board of Regents, which accused the group of trying to circumvent the city’s cap on new charters. Carl Campanile and Bruce Golding, NYC Democratic Voters Want to See More Charter Schools, Post Poll Reveals, The New York Post, June 19, 2021
          
THINKING OUTSIDE THE EDUCATIONAL BOX
Learning Among Trailblazing Explorers, Pioneers of Space and Wildcatters Who Changed the World
Some lucky students in Fort Worth are going to get about as close to life at the museum as they can, thanks to an innovative plan to open a K-2 public charter school at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. The idea is so novel, according to museum staff and board of directors, that just a few museums in Europe have opened on-site museum grade schools. In the U.S., only a museum in Hawaii called the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center has explored a similar program. The museum’s director of education, Amber Shive, said the school will operate without state funds the first year but intends to apply for state funding as well as accreditation. Its initial $600,000 budget will come from the museum and private donors. This year, enrollment will be limited to 15 students per grade and there’s already a waiting list. The museum intends to add one grade per year through fifth grade. The ultimate goal is to partner with a local independent school district under the Texas Education Agency’s 1882 program, which financially incentivizes partnerships with ISD schools and charters. Editorial Board, A School in a Museum? Fort Worth Institution is Innovating, Dallas Morning News, July 13, 2021
School Improvement Partnership improves transparency and accountability in the charter school bond market. The School Improvement Partnership Database (or SIP Database) contains financial, academic and operating data on charter schools and charter school borrowers around the country. It is being built out to include all charter schools and charter school borrowers in the coming months. From each financial audit for a CMO or charter school, the SIP Database contains 50 financial data points, always refreshing automatically to include the three most recent years. The SIP Database has a dashboard for subscribers that displays requested datapoints in an easy-to read-fashion, and such data can be exported in Excel from the SIP Database to the Team Member. Please view our website or call us at 215.854.6322.
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