Non-Traditional Financing Options

Examine Non-Traditional Financing Options and Research Public/Private Opportunities

As regards the complex and contentious issue of the potential for and consequences of urban faith-based schools systematically partnering with the growing market of K-12 charter schools, it has become clear that we must carefully define the contours and ambitions of any such partnership and examine its inherent risks and opportunities before any substantial action is taken. 

It is essential to acknowledge that the question consists of two separate but nonetheless complementary issues. The first, which is essentially a facilities issue, deals with the ongoing practice of charter leasing, whereby a faith-based school system (often a Catholic school), in an effort to use the resulting revenue to advance its faith-based educational mission elsewhere, leases a portion of its facilities to a charter operation animated by values-based education. The second, which is essentially an operationsissue, deals with the complicated question of the viability of a Catholic charter “wrap-around” or “hybrid” school; a model in which a school is run as a legally permissible and state certified charter operation during the course of the standard school day, and a comprehensive and voluntary faith formation program (possibly financed through tuition, subsidization and private giving) is offered before and after the school day. 

It is important to acknowledge that the practice of leasing Catholic school facilities to values-based charter operators has been happening in dioceses and archdioceses across the country, including places such as Indianapolis, Dallas, Chicago, Detroit, and Brooklyn for years. Preliminary research indicates that there have been hundreds of such instances in recent years, but there has yet to be an exhaustive study of the history on the topic. In order to more accurately understand the financial and educational consequences of this strategy, we would be well served to commission a national research venture on urban faith-based school facilities usage.
The issue of a “wrap-around” or “hybrid” is far more complex, insofar as it raises fundamental questions about what the essence of a Catholic school is and how that essence may be extended. The model raises important questions about issues such as school governance, hiring requirements, mandatory relationships with teacher’s unions, as well as broader Constitutional and state regulatory questions. These questions, and others like them, demand the attention of researchers, policy makers, and school leaders. To that end, we should pursue opportunities for a robust partnership between Catholic higher education and K-12 schools – perhaps involving the development of a pilot venture – which would allow for an exploration of such a school model.