Deal With Charter Schools Offers Wholesale, Retail Potential

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California Credit Union has entered into a "collaborative partnership" with the California Charter Schools Association.

Chris Kerecman, California CU's senior VP-business development and community relations, told The Credit Union Journal the two sides were introduced just 60 days ago, but already are in a "pretty detailed collaboration."

"This is a great business opportunity," he said. "We share a lot of common organizational objectives. Their member schools need facilities, and we're a billion-dollar credit union with money to lend. It is a very positive relationship."

According to the California Charter Schools Association, charter schools are independent public schools that give teachers and the local community a choice in determining their curriculum, staffing and budgets, with the stated goal of improving student achievement. Currently, there are more than 500 charter schools in the state, which have 7,000 employees and 180,000 students. The CCSA projects over the next 10 years, the number of students will jump to 670,000 as more charter schools open and others convert.

Kerecman said California CU-which operates with a statewide educational franchise that includes public, private and parochial schools, as well as members of all parent-teacher associations-will offer a "full array of services" to the teachers, staff and students of charter schools, as well as their families. This will include natural-person services such as checking accounts and auto loans, and lines of credit and other business services for the schools.

"Charter schools need to manage their cash flow and finance facilities. Most charter schools that fail do so due to a lack of facilities," he said.

Another key feature of the collaboration will be the CU offering a charter school affinity credit card. Kerecman said the details are being worked out, but proceeds from the cards will be divided between the association's scholarship fund and individual schools. The credit union plans to operate the affinity card program itself, rather than farm it out to a third-party vendor, he added.

California CU and the CCSA were introduced by a credit union member who was happy with the service he received, Kerecman explained. The member facilitated an introduction, and the two sides "moved very quickly," he said.

"I view this as an intense, ongoing relationship," Kerecman added. "We already are working on lines for facilities."

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