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Charter Schools A Step Closer Senate Panel Approves Plan For One School Per District

Idaho’s long-running debate over the value of charter schools has moved to within one vote of taking on a new dimension.

The Senate Education Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved House-passed legislation allowing up to 12 public schools a year to be turned into charter schools for each of the next five years.

Only one charter per district would be authorized.

As public schools, the charters would get state school aid and would be required to use certified teachers, have open enrollment and meet special education requirements.

But they would otherwise be free of most constraints on regular public schools. Advocates hope that will promote innovation and experimentation to improve education.

With committee approval, the bill needs only final approval from the full Senate before going to Gov. Phil Batt, who has endorsed the experiment.

His signature will shift the debate from whether the idea is a good one to whether it works.

In the past, the Senate has killed similar legislation. But this year Education Chairman Gary Schroeder endorsed a compromise worked out after nearly a year of public hearings.

Among the possibilities contemplated by backers of the concept:

A comparatively conservative, traditional school with uniforms that stresses the classics and Latin.

A curriculum that combines an Asian language, perhaps Japanese, with English in the first few grades with the goal of producing bilingual students.

A focus on the arts and music.

An alternative night school.

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