Several House Education Committee members expressed concerns about other amendments being offered to HB 206, the charter school facilities funding bill, if it goes to the House’s amending order. “When it’s on general orders, it’s fair game,” said committee Chairman Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle.
Tamara Baysinger of the state charter school commission said at least five Idaho charter schools wouldn’t qualify for the funds next year under the amendment, and that two have failed in their first year in the past for financial reasons.
Rep. Steven Harris, R-Meridian, made a substitute motion to pass the bill as-is, and not amend it. “It sounds like … the only times there were failures … were when finances were an issue,” he said. “So this would actually restrict a little bit. It was finances in those first two years that was causing a problem. … They would need those funds particularly … if we’re to foster this experimentation.”
Rep. Cindy Agidius, R-Moscow, spoke in favor of the original motion and amendment. “I’ve heard all the arguments – I think this is a good compromise, because we are holding these new schools to a good academic standard,” she said. “My concern is about doing no harm to our existing schools. And two years is a pretty short time period. … I don’t think we’re going to cause a lot of harm by asking to see these schools … settle themselves in and prove that they … need to be building school buildings or what not.”
Rep. Pete Nielsen, R-Mountain Home, said, “We have an awful lot of work that goes into creation of a charter school to begin with.” He said, “Why shouldn’t the money follow the student, even in the first year?” He said when Idaho school districts were first formed they didn’t have to prove they met academic standards. “Why are we going to impose that on them now?” he said. “If you don’t do this, you’re in a sense saying to mom and dad that want their kids to go to charter school, ‘You’re gonna pay double.’”
Rep. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, spoke against the amendment, noting that the bill also requires charter schools to pay “authorizer fees” to the entities that charter them; for a school of 200 students, that'd be about $13,000. If the schools have to pay those fees but don’t get the facilities money, he said, they’d come out behind in the deal.
DeMordaunt then called for a voice vote on the substitute motion. “They ayes have it,” he said. So now the bill will go back to the full House as-is.