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Eye On Boise

Senate takes up charter school facilities funding bill

The Senate is now debating HB 206a, the bill to provide state funding for school facilities at charter schools, to be distributed through a per-student formula. “I would argue that all schools have improved due to the presence of these public charter schools, and as importantly, Idaho parents have more educational choice because of these charter schools,” Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, told the Senate.

Mortimer said charter schools now have to tap their per-student classroom funding from the state to pay for building costs, compared to traditional schools, which ask voters to approve bond or facility levies to fund that. “Certainly our charter schools have the right to … claim facilities funding from the state in order to maintain safe and secure” school facilities, he said. “As a matter of fact, there’s a state constitutional requirement to provide a general uniform and thorough system of public free common schools and also to work on those facilities. This bill provides just a very small step. … The average charter school will receive about $34,000 in one year under this proposal.”

Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, spoke against the bill, and a companion measure, HB 221a. “I was on the Senate Education Committee when we established charter schools, voted for it … and have supported them ever since, and continue to do so,” Keough told the Senate. “I believe they do offer an alternative and a choice in our system. I’ll be voting no on this bill and the next one because at the time when we set it up, we were setting up a system that at that point in time, it was about innovation and laboratories of experiment that could provide choice but also provide  laboratories of research in how to do things better in our traditional system. And when we set the charter system up, we did some special things for the charters that we don’t do for our traditional schools.”

“Our charters can go to the bank and get a loan,” Keough said. “Our traditional schools have to pass a levy, either a facilities levy or a school bond which requires a two-thirds majority. I really think now the time is for us to integrate the sytem, and I recognize that perhaps this bill does that, but I think it doess it in a piecemeal system. … I think it’s been long enough since the charter system was established that we should take a holistic look … and make what’s working for the charters work for the traditional, and vice versa.”

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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