Education construction will hold steady this year in California and across the nation, but the real future potential lies in the development of charter schools, says Yehudi “Gaf” Gaffen, CEO of the construction management firm Gafcon.

Photo courtesy of Gafcon
Accelerated School in Los Angeles

Gaffen was the moderator of a panel titled “New Developments in Education,” hosted by the Southern California Development Forum in Los Angeles. Panelists included Peter Hendrickson, associate vice chancellor/design and construction, UCLA; Ken Zeff, COO, Green Dot Public Schools; and Dan Kreinbring, senior advisor/charter school facilities, California Charter Schools Association.

Post-panel, Gaffen said he’s seeing a “major upswing” in the charter school market. Plusses include the fact that charter schools are not constrained by government restrictions and teacher unions.

“Charters have been growing steadily the past five to 10 years, especially in California, which is now hosting 400,000 K-12 students in 950 schools,” he said.

And for the AEC industry, lots of capital is available for construction and renovation projects and the risk is fairly low, Gaffen said. One of the prime movers in the capital field is the Canyon-Agassi Charter School Facilities Fund, which was formed last year and plans to invest more than $500 million in charter school development nationally.

Gafcon is also profiting from charter projects, including the recently completed Accelerated School, a K-12 charter in South Central Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, on the public education front, the panel discussed the newest data from School Planning & Management’s 2011 School Construction Report. K-12 regional spending last year in Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada came to $2 billion in new construction, down slightly from $2.3 billion in 2010.