Updated: Jul 21
Public charter schools in Idaho and Washington have been called the “have-nots.” Even though most are successful, they can’t pass bonds or levies for facility costs for kids. These leave many of these public schools scratching for funding to simply put a roof over the kids’ heads.
I once heard a story about a local charter school that had a boiler go out in the middle of winter. Students had to stay warm with extra layers of clothes because the school couldn’t afford to pay to fix the boiler. This is an outrage and it is discriminatory against the students who use a charter school.
Education shouldn’t be about your zip code or your financial status (part of the reason why education choice is so important).
Luckily, there are several bills that have been introduced in both the Idaho and Washington state legislatures that could offer public charter schools and their students a lift.
Senate Bill 1042 (Idaho) – Lifts the cap on program to allow well-established charter schools to obtain lower interest rates on bonds, also allows schools that serve 100% at-risk students to apply to use even if they don’t meet academic standards
Senate Bill 1043 (Idaho) – Creates a revolving loan fund to help new and young public charter schools obtain lower interest rates on loans
House Bill 1418 (Washington) – Allows charter schools to apply for state grants on same basis as regular public school district, also requires Superintendent of Public Instruction to distribute enrichment grants in the amount similar to public schools
Despite the funding inequities Idaho’s public charter schools are an important part of the solution to overcrowded classrooms. This fact goes largely unrecognized and unappreciated by study groups and the traditional education stakeholder groups. Over the last seven years Idaho’s public charter school sector has built 20+ school facilities for some 8,000 public school students at more than $150 million in construction costs. Some of these are brand new buildings, but others are facilities located in old department stores or other buildings that were going unused.
In its research, Bluum also found ““an average-sized charter school in Idaho must operate on average with nine fewer teachers, diverting funding intended for student instruction to pay for facilities.”
This graphic from the report seems to tell the entire story:
The tools being proposed by lawmakers in both Washington and Idaho would go a long way toward helping charter schools and their students.