Community Blog: The EDge

Charter school facilities bill: a reaction roundup

A bill to provide charter schools a $1.4 million facilities stipend cleared its first legislative hurdle Thursday, when the House Education Committee voted to print it.

A formal hearing will come later.

Also in the bullpen: a longer and more complicated bill on charter school governance. That bill is likely to be up for a print hearing in House Education early next week.

In the meantime, here are some quick reactions (and some non-reactions) to the stipend bill, House Bill 206.

Rep. Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, chairman of the House Education Committee. “There’s clearly an issue. Our charter schools are struggling.”

DeMordaunt said he likes the fact that HB 206 was crafted by a group of stakeholders — including charter school advocates, the state’s Public Charter School Commission, the Idaho School Boards Association and the Idaho Association of School Administrators. And he also says there is precedent for providing money for school facilities — the state subsidizes voter-approved levies for public schools, to the tune of $17 million.

DeMordaunt hopes HB 206 will be viewed alongside the governance bill. But since the stipend bill carries a pricetag, and since the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee will write a public schools spending bill in early March, he said he wanted HB 206 printed as quickly as possible.

Robin Nettinga, executive director, Idaho Education Association. The IEA has not been involved in drafting the bill, and on Thursday, Nettinga said she hadn’t seen it. She says the IEA has long supported charter schools, but not at the expense of other schools. This bill, as written, would siphon off funds that could be spent elsewhere in education. “(It) gives me some pause.”

Rob Winslow, executive director, IASA. The group is “comfortable” with the compromise, for two reasons. First, it would provide charter authorizers — such as school districts — a fee to handle the administrative chores attached that task. Second, charter advocates scaled back their asking price, settling for smaller stipends. But the price, $1.4 million in the first year, still won’t go over well with everybody.

“I wouldn’t say everybody’s in love with that,” he said. “That’s certainly money the districts could have used.”

Karen Echeverria, executive director, ISBA. The group was involved in negotiating HB 206, but will withhold judgment “until we see the companion legislation.”

State Board of Education. Meeting in Boise Thursday, board members discussed the charter school legislation at some length, but took no position.

Further reading: Here’s our Thursday story explaining the stipend bill in detail.

Kevin Richert is a reporter and blogger at Idaho Education News (idahoednews.org). Kevin is a former Statesman editorial page editor, with 27 year's experience in Idaho journalism.

Posted in The EDge