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Idaho Charter School Market Analysis




Idaho faces a twin challenge in the market for public school students. First, the state needs higher-quality schools to give all its students access to great educational options. Despite the hard work of Idaho educators and many years of policy progress, Idaho students still struggle, with only 40 percent of students proficient in math and 55 percent in reading across all grades statewide, and only 29 percent of Idaho’s high schoolers are meeting college readiness benchmarks.

Second, Idaho simply needs more public school seats due to population growth. According to the 2020 U.S. Census, Idaho was the second-fastest-growing state over the past decade, with a 17.3 percent growth rate—adding more than 270,000 residents. From just July 2020 to July 2021, Idaho, the fastest-growing state over this time, saw its population grow by 2.9 percent, far outpacing the estimated U.S. rate of 0.1 percent. Residents of other states who made Idaho their new home accounted for an influx of nearly 49,000 residents during this time. This dramatic growth highlights an opportunity to explore the market for new, high-quality charter schools across Idaho.

This statewide analysis seeks to understand the market opportunity for new Idaho charter schools in two ways:

  • A population growth projection analysis to estimate future growth in school-age populations in each county and the state overall, and 
  • A quality seats analysis to identify areas in Idaho with the greatest need for high-quality school options.

Charter Schools Serve 9 Percent of Idaho Students 

In the 2021–22 school year, Idaho has 68 charter schools, nine of which are virtual charter schools. These schools serve roughly 29,600 students, making up 9.3 percent of all public school enrollment in Idaho.

Four new charter schools opened in the 2021–22 school year:

  • Alturas Preparatory Academy in Idaho Falls, serving grades 6-10
  • Cardinal Academy in Boise, serving grades 9-12
  • RISE Charter School in Kimberly, serving grades 4-8
  • Gem Prep: Meridian North in Meridian, serving grades K-5

Key Findings: Higher K–8 Growth Rates; Highest Needs in Boise, Along I-15

This analysis focused on two questions crucial for anticipating and understanding students’ needs statewide:

Where in Idaho is the largest growth in school-age populations expected to occur? 

  • The highest growth rate overall is projected in Ada, Canyon, and Kootenai counties.
  •  In general, projected growth rates are higher in K–8 age populations than in high school age populations.
  • Which areas demonstrate the greatest need for high-quality school options?
  •  Our analysis found 119 Idaho schools that were consistently underperforming based on 2018–2021 assessment results.
  • Particularly high concentrations of consistently underperforming schools reside in the Boise area and along highway I-15 in southeastern Idaho.
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