by Terry Ryan, CEO of ICSN
This past year saw a growth in Idaho’s charter public school enrollment of over 1,200 new students. This is the largest expansion in new charter school seats in the Gem State since the 2012-13 school year. Despite this growth in student numbers, there is work to be done to improve the operational landscape for the state’s charter schools.
Fact is, Idaho’s charter schools have become the most regulated public schools in the state. How can this be? The state’s charter schools are required to follow the majority of the federal and state issued rules and regulations that apply to traditional public district schools, and like traditional district schools charters must operate within the parameters of more than 25 distinct funding silos that prescribe how schools must spend their money.
But, unlike traditional district schools, charter schools must also comply with the oversight of charter school authorizer(s). In Idaho, public school districts and the Idaho Public Charter School Commission serve as charter authorizers. Every charter school has to have an authorizer, the entity that approves it and determines, on the basis of performance, whether to extend or end a charter’s right to operate. The 36 charter schools authorized by the state’s public charter school commission, for example, sign a performance certificate with the commission. This 22-page document spells out in detail how charter schools will be held accountable for their performance. That’s fair if things stopped there, but charters aren’t getting any of the operational flexibility from state rules and regulations for this extra level of accountability.