TEQlease Education Finance has released a white paper to provide a guide to charter schools about equipment lease financing solutions, general lease terms, best practices, specific challenges for charter schools, how to avoid common pitfalls, and how to achieve the best results.
The paper, titled “A Guide to Equipment Lease Financing for Charter Schools” and authored by Michael Lockwood, President of TEQlease Education Finance, discusses the top questions charter schools have about equipment lease finance.
Unlike the financing methods involved in operations or real estate financing, the issues surrounding equipment lease financing (for everything from furniture to computers) tend to be different. And charter schools have been significantly underserved in this area. With 7,000 charters and 3 million charter school students, charter schools are an increasingly important part of the education landscape. But charter schools differ from public schools in several important aspects that impact equipment lease financing.
East Oakland Leadership Academy Charter School, a K-8 California Charter School established in 2003, recently leased laptops and IT equipment through TEQlease Education Finance, a division of TEQlease Capital. The equipment completed a computer facility serving the school’s 150 students and was set up to comply with State assessment testing requirements and test preparation. TEQlease Capital, a nationwide provider of equipment lease financing solutions, provided East Oakland Leadership Academy with a comprehensive, customized lease financing solution. “The laptops were pre-configured for assessment testing and direct access to the State prior to delivery. This made the process very easy for the school.” said Dr. Laura Armstrong, Director at East Oakland Leadership Academy. The lease covered laptops, installation services provided by the IT vendor, maintenance, wireless access point deployment and laptop carts.
Philadelphia’s financially distressed school district, one of the country’s biggest battlegrounds over the expansion of charter schools, recently approved five new charters in a contentious meeting. The vote by the Philadelphia School Reform Commission, formed in 2001 as part of a state takeover of the city’s education system due to financial problems and low test scores, marked the first time in seven years it has considered new charters in the city. The vote added 2,684 new charter school seats. A total of 39 charter schools applied.
Nearly 80 people spoke at the five-hour meeting. The district already has 86 charter institutions. Despite the lack of new charter licenses in years, the schools have grown rapidly in Pennsylvania as the district has turned over some under-performing schools to charter operators and existing charters have expanded. Charter school enrollment has doubled since 2007, when the they served 32,000 students. They now educate 30 percent of the Philadelphia system’s 207,000 students, according to district figures. They also account for about a third, or $766.7 million, of the district’s $2.5 billion budget, which is an uptick from 2011, when charters took up just 18 percent, according to district budget documents. Opponents warn that approving new charter seats could deny resources to existing public schools. When students transfer into charters, they essentially take their funding with them but leave the traditional schools stuck with the fixed costs like building maintenance and central administration. Charters receive about $10,000 a year for each student they enroll, the same as the district spends on students in other schools.
Quartzsite School District #4, an Arizona school district, recently obtained IT equipment through a lease with TEQlease Capital. Quartzsite School District #4 was established in 1953. There are two K-8 schools in the district with a total of 230 students. There are a total of 12 classrooms and two computer labs in the district; each classroom has four student computers, one teacher laptop, a printer, and either a projector or a SmartBoard with a short-throw projector. TEQlease Capital, a nationwide provider of equipment lease financing solutions, provided Quartzsite School District #4 with a comprehensive, customized lease financing solution. “With the new equipment, we’re able to shift our focus from getting the computers working to implementing new education technology, such as Google Apps.” Said Pablo Cervantes, IT Coordinator at Quartzsite School District #4. “Another benefit about having our equipment leased is that we have flexibility for future projects. Technology gets outdated rapidly, so after the lease is over we can send the computers back and implement new projects that would benefit our teachers and students.”
According to a December 28, 2014 article in the Wall Street Journal, charter schools, which educate about 2.6 million students in the U.S., issued more than $1.64 billion of debt in 2014 to acquire real estate and school facilities. This was more than the record volumes from all of last year and the year before. Although charter schools are perceived among the riskiest municipal (public) borrowers, charter schools have had success raising funds in bond sales. Investors’ rising appetite for municipal bonds is a boost for charters, which are typically nonprofit, publicly funded and run independently from local school districts. [Please note TEQlease Education Finance provides 3 to 5 year intermediate term equipment-backed lease financing, not bond sales for real estate acquisitions as described in this article, and this article is for informational purposes only.]
The ramp-up in charter schools’ debt sales comes as mainstay municipal issuers cut back amid post-recession belt-tightening by public officials. They are attracting yield-hungry investors who have pushed into riskier debt in search of better returns amid low interest rates. Investors consider charter-school bonds to be riskier than conventional school-district debt because charter schools’ primary funding is per-student payments from the state rather than local property taxes. That makes it hard for charters to finance buildings or renovations without tapping outside sources like donors or the bond market. Charter-school bonds are the seventh-most likely sector to miss debt payments, out of 33, according to data from Municipal Market Advisors, a research firm based in Concord, Mass. About 1.37% of outstanding charter bonds, including both rated and unrated debt, have defaulted. That compares with an average of .03% for all rated bonds over the past five years, according to a report by Moody’s Investors Service. Charter schools have issued more than $10 billion in bonds since 1998.
Other factors are driving charter-school bond sales. For example, charter schools in Texas have benefitted when the State agreed to guarantee its bonds—and those of other investment-grade charters—through the $37.7 billion Permanent School Fund, the nation’s largest education endowment. Six Texas charter-school operators have now accessed the guarantee to back about $273 million in debt, according to the Texas Charter Schools Association. Meanwhile, the growth of charters poses an increasing risk for public school systems in cities such as Philadelphia, Cleveland and St. Louis that compete with them for students and state money, according to a report by Moody’s. Students’ flight to charters has helped reduce the Philadelphia district’s underlying credit rating to junk, which is defined as below BBB- or the equivalent, though investors are protected by a state program that can withhold district funds for bondholders, Moody’s said. [The process of accessing the bond market, such as receiving a credit rating, is difficult and should not be underestimated. We recommend getting advice on this subject from professional advisors.]
January 22, 2015 TEQlease Capital, a nationwide provider of equipment lease financing solutions, announced today that the company has provided The Academy Charter School, a New York K-8 charter school, with a comprehensive equipment lease financing solution for IT infrastructure equipment, security systems, school furniture and other equipment for its new building and school expansion in Hempstead, New York.
The financing provided flexible, customized leases needed to expand the school into a new building to accommodate a newly introduced middle school.
“The Academy Charter School is an innovative school and we are very pleased to provide the equipment lease financing that the school required to expand,” said Mike Lockwood, president of TEQlease Capital. “We are deeply committed to helping charter schools with the funding they need to educate their students. In addition, we are excited to be part of such a special project, and we take pride in knowing that our efforts go to an excellent cause and help shape the minds of the future.”
About TEQlease Education Finance
TEQlease Education Finance specializes in equipment lease financing solutions for charter schools for all school equipment. Leases can include IT equipment, laptops, desktops, tablets, phone systems, school furniture, copiers, playground equipment, security equipment and more.
TEQlease Capital, a private equipment lease finance company and School Tech Supply, a Division of Pacific OneSource, Inc., today announced that TEQlease Capital has become the preferred financing resource for School Tech Supply. Through this relationship, TEQlease Capital will provide lease financing solutions for School Tech Supply customers throughout the United States. School Tech Supply is an industry leader providing refurbished PCs and discounted classroom technology to more than 50,000 public and private K-12 schools, colleges and universities across North America. Read the full press release here.
We are very pleased to announce that we have provided Avenues: The World School, a New York City N-12 private school, with lease financing of over $1.5 million for infrastructure technology equipment for its new building in the Chelsea area of Manhattan. The financing from TEQlease has allowed Avenues the flexibility and customization it desired to build a world class technology infrastructure that includes a robust wireless network, SMART projectors, wireless screen sharing, web cameras, collaborative academic technology tools and interactive displays of students’ work. The entire news announcement is available on our News page.
Hawaii Technology Academy (HTA), an innovative online technology K-12 charter school, based in Waipahu, Hawaii, has recently received lease financing for desktop computers and laptops for the entire student body from TEQlease Capital.
“In today’s world the Hawaii Technology Academy believes it is crucial for our school to meet the needs of each and every student by working in close partnership with each teacher and each parent to ensure all students have the flexibility they need to learn and succeed at their own pace,” said Jeff Piontek, head of school for HTA. “With the lease financing provided by TEQlease Capital, we are pleased that we can now provide every student in our school with the technology they need as well as equip our faculty to ensure the students are getting an excellent education.”
HTA has built its learning environment outside of the traditional school building to a web-based curriculum that allows students to stay connected to their teachers and classmates. HTA’s entire enrollment of students now has one to one access to laptops they can use for their web-based classrooms, online discussions and email.
TEQlease is pleased to announce we have provided Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS), the largest charter school in the nation and one of the high performing high schools in California, with lease financing for the school’s computer laboratories.
“As part of the GHCHS mission to provide students with a positive environment where they can develop both academic and practical skills, we are deeply committed to ensuring they have access to computers and other forms of technology that will be critical to utilize during their academic careers and future employment,” said Walter Wallace, CBO of GHCHS . “We are very pleased that TEQlease Capital was able to provide us with flexible equipment lease financing that meets our needs as well as our budget.”
With the approved and now funded lease, GHCHS will be expanding its three visual and performing arts computer laboratories used by over 220 students in the following instructional areas: digital imaging and cartoon/animation; yearbook and photo production; and music technology. In addition, computers in the music technology laboratory have specialized interfaces to receive input from guitars and musical keyboards.”