Idaho has 48 charter schools. The publicly funded, independently run schools have strong support from some of the state’s top political leaders. But a new report says Idaho is not doing enough to encourage charter growth.
The report is unabashedly pro-charter schools. The J.A. and Katherine Albertson’s Foundation that commissioned it supports charter school growth. And the research firm they hired to conduct it is a charter advocate. But co-author Christina Culver with CH Global Strategies says she was surprised that Idaho was not more supportive of charter schools.
“It just didn’t seem consistent with the level of political support,” Culver says. “So what I think has happened for Idaho is that when they originally wrote their charter school laws I think that they were up at the head of the pack. And now that states have been getting on board, Idaho has dropped in the rankings.”
The ranking Culver mentions puts Idaho at 32nd out of 42 for charter laws that encourage growth. Funding is a big part of that. Her report says Idaho charters have - on average - 19 percent fewer dollars per student than traditional schools. That’s largely because Idaho charters don’t have access to additional funding methods like passing local levies. The report says other states are using scholarships and tax credits to equalize funding.
“This is something that the policy leaders of Idaho can look at and give them some guideposts for making decisions for the future,” Culver says.
Last year Idaho lawmakers lifted a cap on new charter schools. But Idaho only got one new charter in 2012. Culver says that shows there is a discouraging atmosphere in the state. However, just this month Idaho’s Charter School Commission granted charters to four new schools.
The bullet points below are taken directly from the opening "snapshot" of the report Idaho In Focus, The School Choice and Digital Learning Landscape:
- In 2011-12, Idaho had 648 public schools, including 43 charters
- Idaho’s charter law ranks in the bottom third of states with charter school laws
- Idaho’s charter growth is slow compared to other states, despite the charter cap removal
- Charter Management Organizations are not present in Idaho
- Idaho does not offer scholarship tax credits
- Idaho does not have a scholarship program for special needs students
- In November 2012, Idaho voters defeated Proposition 3, repealing progressive digital learning policies designed to benefit teachers and students
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