HB 206aa, the charter school facilities funding bill, has passed the House as amended in the Senate, sending the measure to the governor's desk. There was bipartisan opposition; the bill passed on a 40-27 vote, with those dissenting including Majority Leader Mike Moyle R-Star. The measure grants charter schools a per-student allocation from the state budget to cover a portion of their building costs each year; unlike regular school districts, they can't ask voters to raise their own property taxes to fund school buildings, which is the major way that Idaho funds schoolhouses. Under the bill, the per-student allocation would go only to brick-and-mortar, as opposed to “virtual” or online charter schools; but the virtual charters could get state reimbursement for 50 percent of their documented building expenses, for expenses like offices or testing center. The cost of the bill next year is estimated at $1.4 million; it would rise through a formula in future years.
The House also voted 45-22 in favor of the Senate-amended version of HB 221aa, the charter school governance overhaul bill. The Senate amended the bill to remove a clause that would have let 501c3 nonprofit corporations set up state-funded charter schools; the bill now adds only private and public colleges or universities as charter school authorizers. That measure, too, now goes to the governor's desk.
Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.
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