“Charters Under Threat” A Panel Discussion

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Bluum hosted a panel of national experts on charter public schools to discuss the recent challenges to the charter sector and offer advice to Idaho’s school leaders and policymakers. The panelists included Thomas Franta, Washington State Charter Schools Association, Chris Korsmo, League of Education Voters, and Todd Ziebarth, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Terry Ryan, CEO of Bluum, moderated the event.

Panelists explained the four-year journey for a bipartisan coalition in Washington that succeeded in passing charter school legislation. “It was not the easiest of lifts, in large part because our people don’t understand what choice means,” said Chris Korsmo.

In the second year of charter school expansion in Washington, and three weeks after schools opened in Fall 2015 the Washington Supreme Court ruled that there was no funding mechanism for these schools, they were unconstitutional and should be shut down.

“It took us almost 20 years to establish a sector, it took one court decision to rip it away from us and now we are fighting to maintain and reclaim that option” for the students, families and teachers of Washington.

Panelists highlighted how quickly a legal, political, or internal threat could devastate a charter sector. Thomas Franta advised Idahoans to ask “what are the belt and suspenders. What are the back-up options?”

“[Looking at Idaho] I’d be thinking of the same kind of things. Everything’s good right now but you’re one decision away – just like we were, and we will be in the future. So what are you doing to pressure test your law, to make sure you have the belt and the suspenders on.”

Gayann DeMordaunt, from the Idaho Public Charter School Commission asked what charter school leaders could do right now to protect Idaho?

Charter school leaders and supporters have to tell their story, and their student’s, parent’s and teacher’s stories. Todd Ziebarth said “the most compelling thing isn’t us… it’s legislators hearing the huge difference that these schools are making in the lives of kids in their district.”

“[Charters] have gotten a little complacent, in media and elsewhere, in terms of just being out there, telling their story repeatedly and repeatedly. Because if we don’t, we know our opponents are telling the opposite stories.”

Chris Korsmo added, “if you let your opposition define you – you lose.”

You can view the full panel discussion here.

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