The House Education Committee has voted 12-5 in favor of HB 481, Rep. Bob Nonini's bill to lift all caps on creation of new charter schools in Idaho.
Rep. Linden Bateman, R-Idaho Falls, spoke out against the bill. “We have opposition from the school boards association, the administrators association, and from the teachers association. They brought us some concerns here that I think we really need to reconsider what we're doing here. I'm for removing the general cap, six new charter schools per year, but I'm not inclined at this time to remove the cap for one … per district, and based on the potential financial problems brought out by all three of these groups, I just think this is not the year to remove the cap per district.”
Leslie Mauldin, president of the Coalition of Idaho Charter School Families, told the committee, “I waited four years before my child got accepted as a fourth grader through the lottery system at Liberty (Charter School). … I do urge you strongly to remove the outdated caps on charter schooling and allow us to access more funds for the state of Idaho.” Lobbyist Briana LeClaire of the Idaho Freedom Foundation backed the bill, saying, “We believe it adds to freedom.”
Rep. Cliff Bayer, R-Boise, the bill's lead co-sponsor, said, “I think the cap is for all intents and purposes artificial,” and it brings a “stigma” that's hurting the state's chances of getting federal and private grants. He said he'd support further reforms as well, but said, “This is an opportunity this year, and I think it's very timely and very important.” Said Rep. Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, also a co-sponsor, “We can't afford to wait. We need to move forward with this legislation. … This is about empowering our parents.” Rep. Pete Nielsen, R-Mountain Home, said, “I just don't see where lifting the cap on any one of these is anything but beneficial.”
Rep. Sue Chew, D-Boise, offered a substitute motion to send the bill to the House's amending order, to keep the one-per-school district cap in place, while removing the six-per-year statewide cap. She said she supports charter schools, but also doesn't want to hurt children in Idaho's regular public schools by destabilizing funding to school districts. Her motion was defeated on 4-13 vote.