DC Charter School Facilities Spending

Quality, permanent facilities are essential for student development, school growth, and community stability. Public charter schools in Washington, DC, which serve 48% of the city’s students, are responsible for locating, renovating and financing their facilities. After personnel costs, facilities are the second-largest expense for public charter schools each year.

While traditional District public schools operate out of government buildings, maintained and operated with funds from the District’s Capital Budget, DC charter schools are responsible for the purchase, lease, maintenance and operation of school buildings. Since 1999, public charter schools in DC have received an annual facility allowance through the Universal Per Student Funding Formula (UPSFF).

This report, “The Value of the Facility Allotment,” examines public charter school facility spending for fiscal years 2017 to 2021. Using data provided by DC Public Charter School Board in response to a public records request, we analyze annual trends in facility spending and determine the adequacy of the per-pupil facility allowance.

During the five-year period examined in this report, charter schools relied on the facility allotment to cover a portion of their facility-related expenses. For the majority of public charter schools, however, the allotment was insufficient on its own to meet all facility expenses

 Our analysis revealed that between fiscal year 2017 and 2021, public charter schools in DC:

  • Spent over $4,000 per student on facilities annually.

  • Spent nearly $800 more per student than they received from the allotment.

  • Spent nearly half of their annual allotment on leases and mortgages.

As this report explores, the annual increase of the facility allotment has failed to keep pace with the rising cost of facilities. Between 2017 and 2021, the facility allotment increased by only 9.9% (2.2% annually), while the average per-pupil facility expense increased by 17.2% over the five-year period.

In short, facilities are expensive and DC public charter schools rely on the allotment to cover a substantial portion of their facilities costs. The District should continue to increase the facility allotment to keep pace with rising costs and work closely with schools to support their facility needs.