Gov. Mike Beebe wants state lawmakers to appropriate $10 million of the state’s $126 million in surplus funds to the state Department of Education’s Public Charter School Facilities Loan Fund to provide short-term loans to open enrollment charter schools.
The Walton Family Foundation, in partnership with the Arkansas Development Finance Authority, has agreed to provide “an in-kind matching contribution” of $10 million to secure long-term capital bond financing for up to $50 million for open enrollment charter schools, Beebe said in a letter provided to the Joint Budget Committee on Tuesday.
Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample said Beebe’s request for surplus funds to loan to charter schools for building projects wasn’t triggered by a request from any particular charter school. The state hasn’t previously provided funds to charter schools for buildings, he said.
“It is something some folks have asked us to try and lobbied the governor to try,” DeCample said. “He agreed to try it because it’s a one-time use of surplus funds and it will be money repaid to us by the schools that access this money.”
During the 2013 regular session, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 836, creating the fund. Under Act 1255, the loan money can be used to construct, lease, purchase, repair, improve or add onto an academic facility. Money can also be used for “credit enhancement for financing academic facility projects.”
Last week, Beebe proposed giving more than $18 million of the state’s surplus to the Department of Correction, including $10 million to pay its employees for banked holidays that they’ve already worked, $719,873 to open up 200 more prison beds and $7.4 million for county-jail reimbursements in fiscal 2014.
Beebe also has proposed giving surplus funds totaling $10 million to the state Education Department to help school districts install new fiber-optic lines through a matching grant program, $5 million to the Economic Development Commission to attract new businesses to the state through the governor’s Quick Action Closing Fund, and $500,000 to the Department of Community Correction for county-jail reimbursement.