Building Hope is dedicated to supporting high quality
public charter schools by providing access
to excellent educational facilities.
Building Hope supports high quality public charter schools in Washington D.C., Florida and other U.S. cities and states by providing technical and financial assistance for educational facilities. A non-profit organization, Building Hope supports the expansion of academically successful schools with the capacity to grow their enrollments in order to catalyze change across their local public education systems. Building Hope promotes school-centered community revitalization, and believes that excellent charter school programs and facilities will help transform economically depressed neighborhoods into places where children will thrive. Learn more about the work of Building Hope:
LEVERAGING THE SUCCESS OF WASHINGTON DC TO SUPPORT FLORIDA AND OTHER STATES.
The most perilous period for any new entity is in the initial stages of operation. Since 2003, Building Hope has helped finance the growth of the charter school sector in Washington DC. Today almost 40% of public school students attend charter schools. Today, Building Hope is leveraging its experience to support other states, mainly Florida, Georgia and Delaware. In 2009, for the first time, more than half of the lending activity of Building Hope was outside of Washington, D.C.. While $12 million went to five District of Columbia projects, $11.5 million was allocated to seven projects in Florida and $1.4 million to four projects in Delaware and Louisiana.
Florida is now becoming a new area of intensive activity for Building Hope. Both the demand for public charter schools and the quality of many of the charter school operators is attractive for increased lending by Building Hope. This is particularly true in many areas of South Florida. What is appealing about Florida is the experience and track record of many of the charter school operators. Many Florida public charter schools are managed and operated by multi-unit charter school management organizations (CMOs). Building Hope has partnered with some of the most successful ones in Florida, including Academica and Charter Schools of Excellence. These alliances have facilitated Building Hope's market entry, raised its public profile, and helped to manage the risk of operating in a new jurisdiction. Building Hope projects that fully 40% of its future activities will be in Florida, the same allotment as budgeted for Washington, D.C.
Building Hope is also developing partnerships in Delaware and Georgia as those states are improving their charter school regulations to make quality education a goal.
Expansion into these states and others will feature the vast array of administrative, technical and property maintenance services offered by Building Hope that have been proven in other areas. The same goals will apply: assisting public charter schools in low income areas with student bodies that have a high percentage of minority students who qualify for free or reduced lunch programs and who outperform their peer schools. S. Joseph Bruno, president of Building Hope, says: "We take great pride in the successes of our client schools and the students they serve." As always, Building Hope will also maintain the fiduciary duty it has to its investors and sponsors in continuing lending activities that not only meet these social objectives but have yet to be sullied by the write-off of a debt.
HELPING SCHOOLS START THROUGH PUBLIC PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS.
The most perilous period for any new entity is in the initial stages of operation. The most perilous period for any new entity is in the initial stages of operation. According to the Small Business Administration, about half of all new businesses fail in the first year. And a public charter school is a business that must be run efficiently, no matter how noble the intentions of the founders or profound the demands for its services. About one in eight public charter schools fail, for a variety of factors. Helping them through the trying months of the first three years of operation is the motive behind the Incubator Initiative, a public-private partnership led by Building Hope.
Teaming up with the District of Columbia's Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), the Incubator Initiative provides facilities for public charter schools to lease in years 1-3 of their operations. During this period, it is difficult for many public charter schools to find commercial space to lease due to a lack of students. Through the Incubator Initiative, Building Hope can make the initial stages of operation more efficient and more effective, benefitting all parties involved, from the students to the lender.
At present, Building Hope has established six incubator sites. Overall, more than 110,000 square feet has been leased and renovated, creating seats for approximately 1,000 students. The financing for the renovation of these properties was guaranteed by OSSE. This support was crucial for lenders who were financing the development of properties on spec.
The school operators pay a flat rental rate equivalent to the facility funding provided by the District of Columbia. This keeps the facilities costs in line for new schools, who are often slowly building their enrollment. Building Hope manages the facilities, including contracting with a building maintenance firm. The schools do not have to worry about any aspect of the facility and can focus on creating a quality academic environment.
The Incubator Initiative Program represents another facet of Building Hope's holistic approach in its support of public charter schools. In addition to its commercial development and financing, Building Hope realizes the importance of developing partnerships with public agencies. With the Incubator Initiative Program, Building Hope is there when it is needed the most by public charter schools: in the first three years of operations.
HELPING INVESTORS MEET THEIR GOALS.
In 2003, The Sallie Mae Foundation was searching for a way to improve public education in a fiscally prudent model. After much research, it determined that providing facility support through technical assistance and low cost financing was the most effective means to help charter schools. It awarded Building Hope $24M and this support has had tremendous academic impact in Washington DC. Almost 40% of public school students now attend charter schools. This has spurred numerous education reform initiatives in Washington DC and highlighted the potential for a tipping point to occur to improve education for all students in the District.
The Walton Family Foundation was also seeking ways to leverage their philanthropic support to provide long-term solutions in Washington DC. It provided Building Hope a $10M Program Related Improvement (PRI), whereby it lends against its balance sheet and can count this loan against its annual charitable giving requirements. Through technical assistance support and reducing the borrowing costs of charter schools, the Walton Family Foundation allowed schools to find affordable and permanent facility solutions. Through better planning, the schoolâ€™s choice of facilities allows the schools to use its operating dollars on academic programs and provide stellar achievement results.
The Calvert Foundation is a leader in social investments and recently invested in Building Hope to provide low-cost loans to schools in the District.
The U.S. Department of Education has sought programs to improve the efficacy of capital financing for public charter schools. It created a Federal Credit Enhancement program to support community lenders. Building Hope, through its America's Charter Program, secured $7M of credit enhancements to support financings across the country.
The U.S. Department of Treasury has increased its support of the Community Development Financial Institution Fund as a strategy to combat the lingering effects of the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009. It has awarded Building Hope a grant to invest in low-income neighborhoods to spur economic and neighborhood development. It recognizes investments in public charter schools as an effective means to achieve these goals.
The Washington DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) has made an investment in a unique public-private partnership with Building Hope to create an Incubator Initiative. Building Hope has developed six incubators sites to locate new charter schools in their first three years. These lease terms for these facilities are aligned with the schoolâ€™s facility income and allow the schools to grow at a measured pace without concern for huge facility overhead costs.
THE A, B, C's OF CHARTER SCHOOL SUPPORT.
Building Hope expands its services to provide full support for charter school facilities, financing, and business services. General Omar Bradley, the first Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who wore five stars on his shoulders and commanded the main US forces in North Africa and Europe during World War II, once observed that, "Amateurs talk strategy. Professionals talk logistics." Recognizing how critical administrative and business operations (the "logistics") are to public charter schools, Building Hope offers services that perform the quotidian functions needed for these institutions to operate efficiently and effectively on a daily basis.
Building Hope recognizes that the most important feature of a public charter school is the education of its students. For this to happen, Building Hope reduces the administrative burden on the school's leadership, allowing resources to be reallocated accordingly.
These services emerged naturally from the experience of working with charter schools on facility planning, development, and finance. Building Hope helps charter schools protect their investments with basic responsibilities such as janitorial services and building repairs and maintenance. The facility requires strict attention to the maintenance and operation demands of a school so that a safe environment is provided for the students while it is kept in the best condition possible.
Building Hope also provides accounting and business services such as accountability and compliance reporting. It can provide all financial reports for the board, the authorizer, and lender. Building Hope staff have provided the role of interim CFO as small schools grow large enough to support dedicated staff. It performs finance and accounting for accounts payable, receipts and disbursements, preparing annual budgets and financial statements, and regulatory filings. It supports the human resource function by conducting payroll and benefits. In addition, Building Hope provides information technology services, including computer network design and maintenance, and e-Rate services and Federal funding applications. It currently provides these services to nine public charter schools while applications for e-Rate services have been prepared for over fifty public charter schools.
In toto, over one hundred public charter schools have received business services help from Building Hope in the areas of planning, real estate, information technology, human resources, physical plant and finance. Providing these business services in both Washington, D.C. and Florida, Business Hope is prepared to meet the growing demand and allow the staff to attend to the education of their pupils while it ensures that the administrative and operating demands are met.