Dear Mr. Biden, public charter schools are a critical component of our public education system
Dear Vice-President Biden,
Congratulations on your official nomination as the Democratic candidate for President of the United States. We are writing to express our support for public charter schools in Idaho and across the United States. Public charter schools are a critical component of Idaho’s public education system. More than 25,000 students in Idaho attend one of our 60+ public charter schools – 8 percent of the state’s K-12 students. If all of our charter schools were in one school district it would be the third largest district in the Gem State and the fastest growing.
Our charter schools serve students across the state in rural communities like Salmon, Fruitland and Island Park; in our cities like Boise, Twin Falls and Idaho Falls and in our suburbs like Meridian and Garden City. Idaho’s public charter schools perform well academically. CREDO at Stanford University reports, Idaho’s charter school students experience annual growth in reading that is equivalent to 24 additional days of learning in a 180-day school year. Perhaps the greatest benefit is for students in rural charters. Those children outperform their traditional public school peers by 30 days of learning in reading and 59 days in math.
In 2018, Idaho received a federal Charter School Program grant of $22 million and these resources have been critical in helping to open 13 new or expanded public schools – with seven to nine more expected over the next two years. These new school seats have been critical safety valves for some communities that are seeing their student enrollments bursting at the seams as Idaho is one of the country’s fastest growing states. Many of these new students are children of color who enter school behind their white peers academically. These students need the best options their families can find for them, and charters play a key role in this effort.
Because of the success of Idaho’s public charter schools and the strong support of previous Democratic Presidents (Bill Clinton to Barack Obama) we were disappointed to see they are not included as a critical part of the Democratic Party Platform.
Frankly, there are many reasons to support charter schools. However, the most powerful reason is because it empowers all families – rich or poor, white or black or brown, born in this country or first-generation immigrants – to know their children all have access to a high-quality public school that meets their needs. Many families find the right fit in the community when they choose a neighborhood to live in. Other families live where their modest financial circumstances permit. Especially for those families, the option of attending a public charter school is and should be a ticket for their children and grandchildren to pursue the American dream.
The Democratic “Unity Platform” suggests that whether a charter school receives federal funding could depend on whether the school district within whose boundaries the charter school lies believes that school should receive those federal dollars. For many years, Idaho state government has worked hard to provide all public school students with equitable funding; whether a child attends a district school or a public charter school. It would be a great disservice to our children to put a finger on the fair and equitable funding scale Idaho has worked so hard to create for its families and children.
The Democratic “Unity Platform” also suggests charter schools should have to meet a different set of standards than the rest of Idaho public schools. Accountability is in our DNA. Every person who opens or runs a public charter school knows that failure could and should bring sanctions and even school closure.
Given that existential accountability, we cannot understand why the “Unity Platform” would call for charter schools to face additional scrutiny and accountability. We hope that you will reconsider these planks in the Democratic Party Platform.
Blake Youde, Executive Director, Idaho Charter School Network (Statewide)
Terry Ryan, CEO, Bluum, Inc. (Statewide)
Michelle Ball, Executive Director, Alturas International Academy (Idaho Falls)
EmmaLee Robinson, Board Chair, White Pine Charter School (Idaho Falls)
Scott Thomson, Founder and Executive Director, North Idaho STEM Academy (Rathdrum)
Heather Dennis, Organization Director, Anser Charter School (Garden City)
Joel Lovstedt II, Founder and Executive Director, Connor Academy (Pocatello)
Dr. Javier Castaneda, Executive Director, Principal, Heritage Community Charter School (Caldwell)
Susan Luke, Elementary Principal, Compass Public Charter School (Meridian)
Stephen Lambert, Principal, Treasure Valley Classical Academy (Fruitland)
Dan Nicklay, Principal, Coeur d’Alene Charter School (Coeur d’Alene)
Jason Bransford, Chief Executive Officer, GEM Innovation Schools (Pocatello, Nampa, Meridian, and statewide)
Shane Pratt, Principal, Rolling Hills Public Charter School (Boise)
Jackie Collins, Executive Director, Idaho Arts Charter School (Nampa)
Keith Donahue, Executive Director, Sage International Charter School and Forge International (Boise and Middleton)
Patrick B. Goff, Superintendent/Principal, Payette River Regional Technical Academy
Tony Bonuccelli, Principal, Moscow Charter School
Kelly Trudeau, Administrator, Compass Public Charter School (Meridian)
Chris Yorgason, Attorney, Yorgason Law (Meridian and statewide)
Marc Carigan, CFO, Bluum (Statewide)
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