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Choice Out West

Lessons and Challenges from Idaho, Colorado and New Mexico

A new multi-state report, “Choice Out West: Lessons and challenges from Idaho, Colorado and New Mexico,” finds that despite successful expansion and innovation efforts in Idaho’s charter school sector, our state’s rapid population growth is creating not only opportunities but complex challenges in providing quality public school choice seats for K-12 students.

The report builds on the 25+ years of experience of public charter schools in three Western States to report on what has and hasn’t worked in improving education for students and families. The report distills information gleaned from interviews with dozens of experts and data analysis across the three states which all have upwards of 10 percent of their public school students attending charter schools. The report was commissioned jointly by Bluum in Idaho, the Colorado League of Charter Schools and Excellent Schools New Mexico.

Key Idaho Findings

  • With Idaho’s population booming, growing districts are having a tough time creating new seats for its students. Charter schools are operating as an important safety valve to address crowding in these communities.
  • Successful charter school models are growing and expanding their efforts across the state, which offers promise for Idaho and its families. The growing variety of new school models is impressive in the national context.
  • Chief challenges to continued charter school growth include the rising cost of land and construction materials, rising interest rates, housing affordability and gentrification, attracting teaching talent, especially in rural areas, and charter school authorizing capacity.
  • Like Colorado, especially in and around Denver, Idaho’s rapid population growth is driving up real-estate prices and making it harder for young families with children to afford housing. This in turn has led to gentrification in places like Boise, which have made it more challenging for public charters to effectively serve mixed-income populations, despite their mission to do so.
  • With only one statewide authorizer, and the demand for charters growing, the capacity for quality oversight of Idaho’s public charters is being stretched thin. Idaho law allows public universities and colleges to authorize public charter schools, but so far none have taken on the work of helping to support quality oversight and expansion of public charter schools in their communities.