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Failure Of Charter Schools Bill Doesn’t Spell End To Proposal

A proposal to create two unusual schools in Post Falls isn’t dead, though state legislation that might have made their operation easier died this week.

The controversial charter schools proposal died in the Senate Education Committee because of the Legislature’s impending adjournment.

The bill would have allowed schools to reorganize out from under the regular rules and regulations of the state - and still receive state funding.

“I’m a little disappointed,” said Sen. John Hansen, R-Idaho Falls, chairman of the committee. “It comes to us after we’ve been instructed to stop holding meetings. It’s frustrating to have a bill that has a lot of interest to come to us under those circumstances.”

Post Falls parents Don Morgan and John Malloy were interested in the bill because they saw it as an appropriate avenue for their elementary school restructuring proposal.

The two parents envision three different models for the district’s elementary schools, providing a distinct choice for parents.

One school would be structured as it is now. Another school would be the “cutting edge” school, employing all the latest in modern teaching methods.

The third school would be a traditional academy style school with a strict dress code, traditional curriculum and possibly a longer school day.

“If (House Bill) 163 passes, and I’m not ready to bury it yet, then two of the three models could become charter schools,” Morgan said Wednesday.

Charter schools or no charter schools, Superintendent Dick Harris said the district intends to explore the restructuring idea through a community and staff committee.

“It’s possible for any school district to develop magnet schools with certain themes … under the current structure,” he said.

School administrators lobbied against the charter schools legislation, saying it left schools unaccountable to local authorities and ran the risk of creating elite schools.

Dave Teater, assistant superintendent of the Coeur d’Alene schools, said he saw the bill as “a step closer to using public funds for private schools.”

Supporters of the bill included an unusual coalition of home-schoolers, religious groups and the Idaho Education Association, which supported the bill after giving its input to the sponsor, Rep. Fred Tilman, R-Boise, a home-school advocate.

Because of the IEA’s influence, the bill required that charter schools employ certified teachers, and charter schools could not form without the support of at least 50 percent of the school’s teaching staff.

“Our main concern was that it pertain to public education, and all students would have access to it, and it honored the bargained (teachers’ contract) agreement,” said IEA president Monica Beaudoin.

The bill did not allow private schools to reorganize into charter schools.

Tilman said he was disappointed but not discouraged by his bill’s death.

“I’ll be back,” he vowed.

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Susan Drumheller Staff writer Staff writer Rich Roesler contributed to this article.

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