House Bill 566 – Testimony for Support to the Idaho Senate Education Committee

House Bill 566 – Testimony for Support to the Idaho Senate Education Committee

Testimony to the Idaho Senate Education Committee
March 13, 2018
Terry Ryan, CEO of the Idaho Charter School Network


Chairman Mortimer, Vice-Chair Thayn, and members of the committee.

For the record, I am Terry Ryan and I am speaking today to you in my role as the leader of the Idaho Charter School Network.

I want to thank you for taking up House Bill 566.

This bill is worthy of your support for seven basic reasons:

  • Research tells us that, “effective principals are key to strengthening teaching and schools, but there has been an insufficient investment in recruiting, preparing, and supporting great principals, particularly for high-poverty schools.”
  • Idaho is the fastest growing state in the union and we need to welcome and embrace the very best talent we can for our schools and children. We have some outstanding nontraditional leadership talent wanting and prepared to run a charter school in Idaho.
  • When launched back in 1998 the legislative intent of the state’s charter school program was to “serve as learning laboratories with hope that successes could potentially be applied throughout the larger public education system.” House Bill 566 builds on this intent.
  • Idaho’s public charter schools are held to a higher standard than all other public schools in the Gem State. Every one of Idaho’s 52 public charter schools have to have a state approved authorizer, the entity that approves the school and determines, on the basis of performance, whether to extend or end a charter’s right to operate.
  • Idaho’s public charter schools as a sector are high-performing. See Attachment A for comparison of student achievement on 2016-17 ISAT for public charter schools and public district schools. They have earned the right to be different.
  • Idaho is one of only a handful of states with charter school laws that do not offer this level of basic administrator flexibility. According to data shared with me by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools 28 of 35 states with charter laws require that charter administrators only need to have a B.A., pass a criminal background check and be hired by an approved charter school board of trustees. Flexibility in hiring school personnel is a basic charter school freedom recognized across the country.
  • As we work to compete with other states for federal charter school program start-up dollars one of the basic flexibilities required in the competition is administrator flexibility. This bill will make Idaho’s charters more competitive for scarce federal funding dollars and encourage the steady expansion of Idaho’s high-performing charter school sector.

But, don’t just take my word here. Here are some comments from some of Idaho’s top public charter school leaders.

James R. Dalton, American Heritage Charter School in eastern Idaho writes: “This bill applies to me. I am co-founder of two charter schools, former board member, and now charter school employee. Yet, I am not a traditional educator. I have a juris doctorate degree, worked for one of the largest law firms in the world, clerked for a judge on the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of appeals, and served in the U.S. Attorney’s office as a federal prosecutor. I also spent six years as general counsel and later general manager to a group of companies based in Idaho, overseeing more than 100 employees and managing a large portfolio of assets and operating companies. I have more than 12 years of legal and business management experience, in addition to several years’ experience working in the Idaho Governor’s office during the administration of Dirk Kempthorne.” Yet, Dalton continues, “Because I don’t have traditional educator credentials, the school isn’t reimbursed for my wages and I am instead paid out of the school’s maintenance and operations budget. This is a hardship on the school.”

Keith Donahue, Sage International School of Boise, says: “I’d like to share my ‘non-traditional’ path to becoming a school leader. I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics. I also learned my Juris Doctor and worked as an Idaho Deputy Attorney General for several years. My client, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, then hired me in a non-attorney capacity to manage multiple programs. Through these two positions, I gained 10+ years of experience interpreting Idaho law and policy, overseeing state and federal budgets, drafting legislation, rules and policy, and managing personnel – all transferable to school leadership…Given my non-traditional path, I am not a certified administrator and cannot be our official charter administrator.

Deby Infanger, Board Chair from the American Heritage Charter School in Idaho Falls writes: “I currently have an over-qualified parent of 5 of our students hired as the Executive Director of American Heritage Charter School. He is an attorney by trade (with a doctorate degree of course) and has also managed a large business and worked in the US Attorneys office. But, according to current policy, he isn’t qualified enough to be the administrator for a small charter school and I must pay him out of discretionary funds (like an aide).”

Michelle Ball, veteran teacher and educator from Idaho Falls shares: “I am the most qualified in our school to be the administrator to fulfill the commitments of our charter. I hold a bachelor’s degree, have a wealth of experience and founded Alturas International Academy, yet my position is not funded by the state. This is unfair to the school and students that we serve as my qualifications are way beyond those who have the needed state requirements. Fortunately, our new principal and I have a great relationship, but it took a lot of effort to find someone who believed in our mission.”

Jim Smith, long-time educator and community leader from the Upper Carmen Charter School in Salmon simply states: “I’ve been a charter school superintendent for 14 years, a former traditional school superintendent for 19 years, and served as the Chief Certification Officer and as a Deputy Superintendent  for the Idaho Department of Education…I fully support and encourage the passage of HB566. Allowing us to continue truly serving students utilizing our successful model with our established and trained administrators will be an ongoing benefit to generations of our students.”

Thank you for the opportunity to testify here today and I will happily take any questions you might have for me.

Read the unabridged letters of support here