Idaho Lawmakers Get First Look At Charter School Funding Proposal

Feb 21, 2013

Alan Millar
Credit Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

The public wasn’t thinking much about Idaho charter school funding until lawmakers held a pair of public meetings this month.  That was when charter school advocates turned out in droves to plead for more funding.

Idaho lawmakers Thursday agreed to consider a bill to give more money to charter schools. Jason Hancock with Idaho’s Department of Education told the House Education Committee charters have a hard time paying for buildings.

“Charter schools have had to scrimp and save and steal in order to pay for facilities,” he said. “And it can cost anywhere from 15 to 30 percent of their operating cost. They don’t have the option of going to the property tax, which is how school districts generally pay for facilities.”

Charters and traditional districts get similar per-student funding from the state but districts have the option to raise other revenue through levies and bonds.

The bill would give charters a per student allocation to pay for buildings. That money would come out of the public schools budget. It would be about $1.4 million the first year then increase to around $2 million the next year. It’s based on a percentage of the average amount traditional districts get from local taxpayers.

Alan Millar heads a charter school in Sandpoint and the Idaho Charter School Network. His organization is backing the funding bill. Millar says charter schools have a harder time paying for buildings than even the state’s poorest traditional districts.

“Even those districts that are unable to pass levies and are living with buildings that are substandard etcetera, they are not taking operating dollars that they use to pay teachers and their curriculum,” he said. “They’re not taking those and spending it on their buildings.”

But advocates for traditional districts say they also have requirements charters don’t, such as transporting students to and from school.

Lawmakers will likely take up this bill next week.

Copyright 2013 Boise State Public Radio