When it comes to the importance of quality education in New Mexico, public charter schools provide exceptional benefit. They are free and open to all students interested in attending. Like many charter schools, the schools we have the privilege of running are making a substantial difference for students. While charter schools are public and have access to most funding that local traditional schools have, there is one important aspect where funding falls short: capital needed to obtain sufficient facilities. As public charter schools, finding a facility and securing funding for that building is incredibly difficult.
The public charter schools we run are quite different. Albuquerque Collegiate is an elementary school located in the heart of the South Valley. Through a highly structured and supportive educational setting, based on practices from some of the nation’s top performing charters, Albuquerque Collegiate achieved some of the highest reading results in the state in 2019.
Cottonwood Classical Preparatory School (CCPS) is an International Baccalaureate World School with consistently high achievement scores and a graduation rate averaging nearly 100%. The school serves grades 6-12 and is recognized as one of the top 100 public charter schools in the country by US News – ranked No. 68.
Both of our schools are recognized as some of the best in New Mexico and nationally. As a result of our success with students, both of our campuses have a long list of families with students who hope to attend our schools.
However, we continually must turn families away due to lack of adequate facility space. When it comes to facilities, charter schools are greatly underfunded in New Mexico relative to their traditional district school counterparts. On average, traditional district schools receive thousands of dollars per student to build and maintain facilities. For public charter schools, we receive less than one-third this amount. The state fails to provide adequate mechanisms to pay for facilities, existing and new, despite incredible demand from families in Albuquerque and across New Mexico. Charter schools are forced to save operational funds meant to serve students directly in order to put a down payment on facilities. In many cases, we have both had to look out of state for funding because we lack sufficient financial support in our own state. That and a capital campaign are how Cottonwood was able to fund its 24,000-square-foot expansion.
Because of continued high demand, we need to expand our current facilities to ensure we can serve the families that want to choose our public schools. That search will again be constrained by the availability of property and the limited dollars we can save as a public school. With the legislative session and historic budget surpluses, we encourage the community to keep track of legislation working to alleviate unequal facility funding for charter schools.
N.M.’s public charter schools need more funding for facilities, easy access to public bonding dollars and a financing mechanism for building facilities. This would make it easier to expand our facilities to meet community needs. If we invest in our facilities, more families will be able to attend their public school of choice, particularly high performing charters like Albuquerque Collegiate and Cottonwood Classical Preparatory School.