Raza Development Fund Plays A Critical Role in the Pacific Northwest

Raza Development Fund Plays A Critical Role in the Pacific Northwest

It has been three years since Raza Development Fund launched its Pacific Northwest Regional “PNWR” Office located in Seattle, WA. As a nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution “CDFI”, RDF provides specialty financing solutions benefiting low-income, Latino families and children throughout the United States.

Since the first enacted charter school legislation was passed in Washington State, RDF has been one of the only CDFIs in the nation willing to provide facility financing for charter schools in state, and presently, the only CDFI doing so. As a national CDFI leader that has been supporting quality school choice options for over two decades, we knew we had to set an example for other capital partners.

The first cohort of public charter schools in the state are now in their fifth year of operation; we now have concrete student academic progress, to which we can also point to.

A recent report released by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes, Charter School Performance in the State of Washington 2020, found that Washington charter schools are showing significant student growth, specifically, with its English Language Learners (“ELL”) population, in both English and Math; and today serve more than 3,600 students in 12 different schools across Washington State.

The RDF Pacific Northwest Region Office is located at 4813 California Ave. SW in Seattle, WA.

We recognize that other than education; we need to be that national CDFI leader for other areas of focus; including affordable housing, healthcare, small business, and specialty finance.  Since the establishment of the PNWR office, RDF has made 8 different investments of nearly $38 million, including 5 public charter schools, 1 medical clinic, 5 recoverable grants to small business owners, a New Markets Tax Credit investment, and an affordable housing preservation project with a Seattle-based affordable housing developer.

Our specific business approach has been to establish a physical presence in Seattle, where RDF could work more closely with leaders across the region; provide technical assistance; and respond to project financing requests in a timely fashion manner, with local, high-touch, in-market expertise while sharing best practices and lessons learned from our work across the country.

What makes RDF different? 

Over the last 20 years, RDF has been able to provide financing solutions to early stage community leaders and organizations that do not have the necessary proof points and credit merit to obtain traditional financing.  As a CDFI, we fill the gaps left by banks in underserved markets and communities.  RDF’s Board Chair James Feild says it best, “A lender with heart and soul.”

RDF’s decision to support Quality School Choice Options in Washington State

Public charter schools are a vital part of public education across the country and have made a real difference for many families from underserved communities of color and communities struggling with poverty.  RDF has provided direct funding to some of the state’s high-quality charter schools, including Impact Public Schools (“Impact”).  RDF’s support enabled Impact to launch its first school, Puget Sound Elementary, located in Tukwila, WA.

“Impact Public Schools is thrilled to partner with Raza Development Fund to bring high quality education to K-5 students in Washington state,” shared Jen Wickens, CEO and Co-Founder of Impact Schools. “Our scholars are off to an exceptionally strong start, and we wouldn’t be here without the leadership, guidance, connections and resources provided by the Raza team. We are truly grateful the Raza team is as committed to Washington state students as we are.”

Impact has been a high-profile example of charter school excellence, serving a high percentage of at-risk students.  81% of its current student population are minority and 71% are eligible for Free and Reduced-Price Lunch (“FRPL”), while making significant gains in both reading and math.

In the spring of 2020, Impact launched a full distance blended learning program that included both synchronous and asynchronous instruction.  Despite the obstacles and uncertainty that COVID-19 brought, Impact remained committed to providing high quality education and families remained highly satisfied.  In May 2020, Impact Public Schools was recognized by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools with an Above and Beyond Award for going “the extra mile” to serve the community during the pandemic through its distance learning model.

New Markets Tax Credits Investment

Committed to the Pacific Northwest Region, RDF specifically identified Washington State as one of its service areas in it last round of New Markets Tax Credit program.  The underserved low-income rural community of Shelton, WA will soon have a YMCA, that will offer amenities, programs, and on-site resources.  The city of Shelton has been in dire need of a community support system, and the Shelton Family YMCA , will be a community center where people of all ages, cultures, and backgrounds could come together to be active and healthy, educated, and inspired.

RDF’s Commitment to the Pacific Northwest

Focusing on one issue alone will never break the cycle of poverty.  That is why our commitment to the PNW is to bring national expertise, willingness to listen and provide real solutions to help remove barriers and create more opportunities for those organizations and leaders of colors leading towards a systemic change.

We invest in many stages of an organization’s cycle, from concept to financial sustainability and growth. As we continue our commitment to serving poor families and children, we are here to help provide the necessary resources needed to support communities solve complex problems that increase opportunities, in the areas of education, affordable housing, healthcare, small business, and specialty finance.

While the RDF staff continues to work remotely due to the national COVID-19 pandemic, we are more committed than ever to improve client engagement and address the needs of the community to help them thrive.

RDF’s Investment and Credit Products include:

  • Pre-development Loans
  • Land Acquisition, Construction & Interim Financing
  • Medium Term & Permanent Fixed Rate Debt
  • Working Capital, Equipment & Growth Capital Loans
  • Tenant Improvement Financing
  • Specialty Finance Solutions & Philanthropic Bridge Loans
  • New Market Tax Credit Allocation & Leveraged Debt

Our PNWR Office is led by Amanda Sanchez, who joined RDF’s Education Finance Team in 2011. Should you have questions about our work and commitment to the PNWR, please contact Amanda, directly at (602) 910-0150 or via email at asanchez@razafund.org

Amanda Sanchez, director of the Pacific Northwest region, first joined RDF's Education Finance team in 2011. Originally from Washington State, Amanda is first generation Mexican American who is fluent in both English and Spanish.