The many ways one powerful nonprofit organization and its leader help charter schools
by Carol Burris
The original mission of the federal Charter Schools Program of the U.S. Department of Education was to help new charter schools get on their feet by providing start-up help. The program began small during the Clinton administration when Congress awarded it $6 million to give to states and a handful of schools that directly applied.
The program, known as CSP, is now a behemoth with a budget approaching a half billion. Congress, bending in part to pressure by the charter lobby, added additional programs and funding over the years. Special funding streams now exist for a variety of charter-related services including two different CSP funding streams (one federal, another state) to support the building and renovation of charter schools.
There are some who now argue that part of the charter movement, amply funded by the federal government, has become a web of interconnected vested interests for whom real estate is the central focus.
The story of one of its recent grantees, a nonprofit organization known as Building Hope, provides a case in point.