Rep. Branden Durst, D-Boise, is calling for a complete reformation to the way members of the Idaho Public Charter School Commission (IPCSC), the oversight board which monitors the affairs of the state’s charter schools, are seated on the panel. Durst says he believes that board members should be publicly-elected, while another lawmaker says the current procedure is fine.
Durst, writing on his blog Thursday, said that because IPCSC board members are selected by the governor and appointed to the post, they may be beholden to the state’s chief executive. “Due to the politically connectedness to the governor, commissioners (if political science research is any indication) are likely to side with what is in the best interest of the governor, not necessarily what is in the best interest of the institutions (the individual school or the commission itself),” writes Durst.
Additionally, notes Durst, board members are free to make decisions that affect taxpayers and their children without having any accountability to the general public. “Due to the fact that individual commission members are not personally accountable to those that fund their activities (the taxpayers), there is no oversight to their actions,” he believes.
The commission has been in the news as of late due to its disciplinary action imposed on the Nampa Classical Academy, a charter school based in the heart of Canyon County that made news itself last year when it tried to use the Bible as a historical text in classrooms. The IPCSC yanked the school’s charter in June for alleged sloppy mismanagement of school finances. School officials say they’ve been treated unfairly and targeted because of their desire to use the Bible in its curriculum. The school has appealed the decision of the commission to the Idaho State Board of Education, which is in the process of issuing the final ruling.
What would be a better format for selecting board members? Durst thinks the public itself should choose. Here’s the structure Durst would like to see outlined in his blog post:
I would first eliminate the gubernatorial appointment and replace it with an election. Commissioners would serve four and two year terms that would rotate so as to always have a core group remain (similar to the way county commissioners are elected). The commissioners would be elected from conglomerations of counties known as regions that are created based upon population size. As for the appeals process, that is a bit more tricky. I would prefer to have the SBE also be elected and for the same reasons. Given that is even less likely to happen, I would also remove the appeals process from going to the SBE and instead direct it the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
To make the change, Durst would likely have to run legislation through the House and Senate education panels. One member of the House Education Committee, Rep. Marge Chadderdon, R-Coeur D’Alene, said she isn’t sure why Durst is pressing for a reform of the commission. “I think the present way has been working,” said Chadderdon Monday. “I would have to see and hear reasons why a change should be made.” When asked if commission members might be loyal to the interests of the governor when making decisions, Chadderdon said that she doesn’t believe that happens. “I feel that most people that serve on the commission take it quite seriously,” she concluded.
Durst knows his idea wouldn’t solve all the problems in the charter school oversight process, but he feels it would be a good first step. “I do believe it would yield better outcomes and provide more transparency and accountability than the current guarded process that we are watching slowly unfold before us,” said Durst.