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Shackled Education Pioneers

Idaho's Public Charter Schools at 20

As Idaho marks 20 years since the first charter schools opened in the Gem State in 1998 it is worth looking back at how the public charter movement started here. That’s the primary purpose of this report. But, as one revisits the history of Idaho’s public charter school program it is helpful to note how the effort has strayed from its original intent of allowing significant space for education innovation.

When launched back in 1998 the legislative intent of the state’s charter school program was “to serve as learning laboratories with hope that successes could potentially be applied throughout the larger public education system.”1 But, like in other states, the political compromises required to pass the original charter law minimized the actual space for innovation. Worse, Idaho’s charter law has been modified almost annually and many of these changes have reduced even further the ability of public charters to really operate much differently from traditional public schools.

After 20 years of effort, it is time to revisit the big ideas behind charter schools in Idaho. How can we return to the charter idea of accountability for performance in exchange for true operational flexibilities and the right to be different in uses of money, time, technology and non-certified staffing? Idaho’s system of education needs this engine of reform, and the state’s families and children want it.

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Quality By Design

Bluum 2017 Annual Report

We care deeply about helping create and support high-quality schools across Idaho. It doesn’t matter to us whether they’re private, charter public, or district innovation. We are committed to what we call the ‘20 in 10’ strategy; creating 20,000 new high-performing Idaho school seats in 10 years (2024).This is why we seek out, vet, and support innovative leaders and high-performing school models; ‘20 in 10’ schools are quality by design. Quality is our focus, because quality is what counts. In other words, Bluum is governance-neutral. We support promising models with technical assistance, grant funding, talent recruitment and development, help securing a facility – anything it takes to provide more Idaho children with a world-class education.

This report is a way to provide public accountability for what we are doing, to document the lessons learned, and to highlight and share some of the issues and concerns that we, in partnership with the schools, seek to address in coming months and years.

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Parents' Guide

To School & Learning Options in Idaho

We’ve had the extraordinary opportunity to visit many schools across the Gem State – public district, public magnet, public charter, alternative, private, parochial and online. No matter the school type or the location, one common theme we’ve found in every school is parents who want the very bets opportunities for their children.

We’ve created this Parents’ Guide to empower parents! We want to provide a resource that defines your options and offers ideas for how best to take advantage of these for your child(ren). We believe that providing information about Idaho’ many – and growing – learning options can help parents make better choices for their families.

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Guía de Padres

Para las Opciones de Escuela y Aprendizaje en Idaho

Hemos tenido la oporunidad extraordinaria de visitar muchas escuelas por todo el Estado Gem – distrito público, magnetico público, chárter público, alternativa, privada, parroquial y por internet (online). No obstante el tipo de escuela o el sitio, un tema común pue encontramos en cada escuela son los padres que quieren las mejores oporunidades para sus hijos.

Hemos creado este Guía de Padres para ¡empoderar a los padres! Queremos proveer un recurso que define sus opciones y les ofrece ideas de cómo mejor tomar venaja de éstas para su(s) hijo(s). Creemos que al proveer información de las muchas – y cada vez mayor – opciones de aprendizaje en Idaho puede ayudarles a los padres elegir mejor para sus familias

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Building Excellence

How Helping Charters Access Facilities Can Improve Opportunity for Idaho Kids

Finding appropriate instructional space is a perennial challenge for schools of choice which – unlike public district schools – do not have access to public bond markets or public tax levies. Affordable facilities are a serious inhibitor to the growth of the state’s charter public schools, especially start-up charter schools that might bring different programs and learning opportunities to Idaho’s children and families.

This is especially frustrating for three reasons. First, Idaho’s brick-and-mortar charter schools work. On 2015-16 state achievement tests five of the state’s top 15 public schools are charters, while the top three schools in mathematics were all charters. Second, there are more than 6,000 Idaho Children on charter school waitlists. Third, the National Center for Education Statistics projects that Idaho will add upwards of 22, 000 new pre-k-12 students by fall 2022.  Charter public schools can help add new high-quality seats for the state’s growing number of new students.

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Hispanic Parents Speak Out

Reflections from a series of focus groups with Hispanic parents in Idaho conducted for Bluum

Hispanic students are among Idaho’s fastest growing demographic groups, making up 17.7% of enrolled public K-12w students today. Even more, enrollment of Hispanic school-age children is projected to grow another 11.7% by 2019. This demographic shift makes it imperative that Idaho;s schools learn to fully engage theses students and their families in high-quality educational opportunities, especially if we are to ensure that theses students are able to contribute to the future of Idaho’s social and economic development. Idaho’s Hispanic families offer valuable insights that can benefit the work of schools throughout the state, whether they be private parochial, or public.

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Treasure in the Valley

Demographic Changes and New School Opportunities in Ada and Canyon Counties

Idaho’s families and student demographics are changing. Not only is the state’s total population growing (Idaho is the 10th fastest growing state), but Gem State families are increasingly urban, non-white and lower income. This was the big takeaway from the 2013 ECONorthwest report Shifting Sands: Idaho’s Changing Student Demographics and What it Means for Idaho. That report confirmed what many of us who work in communities like Boise, Meridian, Twin Falls, Idaho Falls or Coeur d’ Alene see daily as we pass new home construction sites, hunt for apartments, sit in traffic and watch new school buildings pop up like wild flowers.

Additional Publications

A quality authorizer can serve as a change agent, a market maker, and a force for quality in public education. Quality authorizing can serve as a quality control check for the charter schools sector and provide lawmakers with the confidence that someone is watching the store and ensuring excellence.

Idaho’s public schools receive revenue from state, local, and federal sources. This brief focuses on the allocation of state funds for public education, which comprise the largest source of funds for Idaho’s public schools at over 60 percent.