Charter School Funding Fix Passes 2nd Chamber

The Senate voted 36-0 this morning to make charter school facility funding more predictable, sending House Bill 207 to the governor with unanimous support.

As Sen. Antonio Maestas (D-Bernalillo) summed it up on the floor, the bill changes the “may” in statute to a “shall” because “bankers freak out on ‘may,’ so this makes it clear they will get paid.”

There was no further debate or discussion.

As we’ve explained, unlike their district counterparts, charter schools are on their own for figuring out where they’ll actually provide instruction to their students. And so charter schools often have to make do with old buildings, settle for vacant retail space in strip malls, and get creative to make every square foot do double or triple duty, like using a large, open area for the “cafegymnatorium” (cafeteria, gymnasium and auditorium). And up until 2022, if a charter school opted to purchase or build to suit, it was on them to find their own loans – and on the private market where they couldn’t get the same interest rates that should be available to them as public schools.

New Mexico has made progress over the last few years when it comes to facilities, with new laws that establish a revolving loan fund to rectify this disparity. As Maestas explained, HB 207, sponsored by Reps. Joy Garratt (D-Bernalillo) and Joshua Hernandez (R-Sandoval), will make it mandatory, rather than optional, for the Public School Capital Outlay Council (PSCOC or the Council) to provide grants from the Public School Capital Outlay Fund to districts for the purpose of lease payments for facilities, including charter school facilities.

Matt Pahl, Executive Director of Public Charter Schools of New Mexico, testified as an expert witness in committee that this bill doesn’t change any practices; it just changes the perception of risk in the fund by mandating consistent state support for charters’ leases.

The Chamber has supported HB 207 throughout the session because we believe all public school students deserve safe and comfortable facilities where they can learn and grow.

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