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Eye On Boise

Posts tagged: Charter Schools

Popular North Idaho charter school to expand, despite district funding concerns

A popular charter school in Rathdrum, Idaho has been approved to expand from its current K-8 focus into high school grades – over the objections of the local school district, which says the move will funnel away money that now provides more course choices for students in its regular high schools. Lakeland School District officials have high praise for the North Idaho STEM Charter Academy, which focuses on science and math and uses an innovative project-based learning approach. But they say under Idaho’s school funding system, expanding the charter means cutting funding for Lakeland and Timberlake high schools.

“There’s very little recognition of the impact it has on districts when they lose students,” said Tom Taggart, director of business and operations for the Lakeland district. “We actually took that hit last year when they opened and we lost about 130 students to the school. That’s a big hit financially.” Under Idaho law for charter schools, the funding follows the student – so if a family chooses to move a child from a regular school to a charter school, the per-student funding is subtracted from the former and added to the latter. “In other parts of the country, they have some ways to ease the pain as you go through this, to help the district taking the impact,” Taggart said.

At North Idaho STEM, students, parents and staff are excited about the expansion, which will take the two-year-old school’s total enrollment from 315 to 724 over the next nine years; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com. Idaho has 48 charter schools, including seven “virtual” schools that offer their instruction online; the charters enroll 17,201 students, 5.8 percent of the state’s public school student population. According to the State Department of Education, more than 11,500 Idaho students are on waiting lists for Idaho charter schools; the North Idaho STEM Charter Academy alone has 200 on its waiting list.

 

Commission approves expansions that could add 990 charter school seats in coming years

The Idaho Public Charter School Commission has approved up to 990 new charter school seats in the state in the coming years, under proposals from three charter school groups, Idaho Education News reports. Idaho currently has 11,400 students on waiting lists to attend an Idaho charter school. The expansions include more than doubling the size of the North Idaho Stem Academy in Rathdrum, which plans to expand its K-8 program into high school grades; nearly doubling enrollment at Sage International School in Boise; and raising the enrollment cap on Syringa Mountain School, a new K-5 charter school scheduled to open next year in Blaine County. You can read Idaho EdNews’ full report here.

IDVA confirms it outsourced Idaho students’ essays to India for grading in past

Idaho’s largest charter school, the online Idaho Virtual Academy, has confirmed that it sent student essays to India for grading in 2007, Boise State Public Radio reports this morning. The 3,000-student public virtual school contracts with K12 Inc., a for-profit company, for its curriculum and management; K12 Inc. spokesman Jeff Kwitkowski told the public radio station, “It was a pilot program designed to help teachers provide more assistance on reviewing papers. It was six years ago, it was a short pilot program and it ended soon thereafter.”

Other reports suggest more than 3,000 IDVA students’ essays were sent to India, BSPR reports. Though it’s several years old, the matter has gained new attention in Idaho since Travis Manning, a Caldwell teacher, penned an op-ed piece about it published in several Idaho newspapers and online news outlets this fall. Manning told BSPR that after running across references to the 2007 incident, “I thought to myself, huh, I don’t remember this story ever breaking in Idaho about any Idaho online schools outsourcing student essays overseas.”

The public radio station reported that while the matter remained low-profile, Idaho’s Public Charter School Commission wrote to IDVA inquiring about it in 2008, raising concerns about possible violations of student privacy laws. You can read BSPR’s full report here, and Manning’s op-ed here at Idaho EdNews.

State board narrowly endorses lifting charter school cap, but with limits

Idaho's State Board of Education today endorsed legislation to lift the cap on the number of new charter schools that can be created each year, but the 3-2 vote came only after the proposal was limited to no more than one new charter school per school district. “The concern was that you could cripple a school district if more than one charter school were approved in a year,” board spokesman Mark Browning said during the board's meeting at Lewis-Clark State College. “There will be continued work on this, but for now it's been green-lighted.” Click below for a full report from AP reporter Jessie L. Bonner.

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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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